Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
MOBILE phone and Internet service providers who provide shoddy service and inflate network charges risk being penalised as the government moves to protect consumers.
Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira had no kind words for cheating service providers while addressing Parliament on Wednesday.
He was responding to a question from Musikavanhu legislator Prosper Mutseyami (MDC) who sought clarity on government policy regarding network providers’ business conduct.
Mutseyami expressed concern over shoddy service by some network service providers in relation to the money paid by clients.
“There’s no correspondence between the service provided and the charges demanded. If you make a call, during the conversation, communication is cut off but cash will be deducted. At times some unanswered calls also attract charges,” he complained.
In his response, Mandiwanzira acknowledged there was a public outcry over the quality of service rendered by network service providers.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints from mobile customers because even those who are using Internet are also facing the same problem. The money paid is used up before they can use the services,” said the Minister.
“We’ve had meetings with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulations Authority, (Potraz) and I gave this explanation to this organisation for listeners and viewers. We’re saying enough is enough.”
Mandiwanzira said his ministry, through Potraz, was working on putting in place a monitoring system which will bring to book any service provider found guilty of cheating customers.
“These service providers should not short change the users. They should set equipment which will monitor the usage of these phones as compared to the money used. We’re urging Potraz to convict whoever is found guilty of providing a shoddy service,” he said.
“We hope that this is going to be implemented as soon as possible. The delay in setting up this is that there was no board in Potraz but it has been set now.” Zimbabwe has three main mobile service companies -NetOne, Econet and Telecel. Other internet service providers include Powertel, TelOne, Africom and ZOL.
Turning to allegations of procurement corruption which are said to have cost the state owned NetOne millions of dollars, Mandiwanzira said the parastatal’s board was investigating the matter.
“I can assure you that the board is investigating all this. The investigations involve some corrupt activities in the procurement of some assets and also payment of some stakeholders who were paid before they had done anything. Some people also had their rents paid,” said Mandiwanzira.
“Whenever there are any suspicions, anomalies or corruption, they should be investigated and measures taken to rectify and solve these problems.”
According to our Harare Bureau, the second largest mobile operator in Zimbabwe is alleged to have lost millions of dollars through procurement irregularities in the acquisition of base station towers and software for One Wallet, the mobile operator’s mobile money service.
“We’re looking into all this and such investigations can be done whilst the leaders of these organisations are there,” Mandiwanzira added.
“There’s a tendency that when investigations are carried out and you’re aware, you seem to instigate that this person has a crime but we need to establish whether there is a prima facie case and also establish the animus furandi (intention to steal) in such cases. This can only be done when the people responsible are there. Of course, there are fears that when these people are there, they may end up interfering with the investigations but we are saying that’s not the fact.”