Information Minister Pays Working Visit to SALCAB, NATCOM, and SLBC
By: Unis Bah and Elizabeth Sengeh
The Minister of Information and Communications over the weekend visited facilities of the Sierra Leone Cable Limited (SALCAB), the National Telecommunications Commission-(NATCOM) and the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, to inspect and familiarize himself with the operations of these institutions under his purview.
At SALCAB he was taken on a conducted tour of the facilities by the Director General, Mohamed sheriff who outlined the importance of the company to the country. The SALCAB General Manager informed the Minister that the entire communications in the country is provided by Sierra Leone Cable Network Limited. He pointed to so many sophisticated equipment and the fiber optic cables which are housed at the SALCAB site at Lumley.
He however said that 60% of the country still lacks local connectivity. He assured the Minister that SALCAB will play a crucial role in furthering the President’s New Direction on education, as the company will give its full support to the e-learning project in the country.
The Chief Commercial Officer, Salieu Mansaray said that the country has 80,000 gigs, but is currently using 6000 gigs. He advised to maximize the utility of the reserved capacity to enhance the development of the country especially in the area of education.
The Minister of Information and Communications promised to have a strong engagement with SALCAB to ensure that communication reaches the nooks and cranny of the country. Minister Swaray said that the government of President Bio has made promises to the people of this country on a New Direction and they will work hard to actualize these promises. He emphasized that it is time that the fiber optic is rolled out nationwide.
At the National Telecommunications Commission, the chairman of the Commission Momoh Konteh gave a rundown of NATCOM’s operations, the gains and challenges he has made and encounter during his tenure since 2015. He said that NATCOM generates its own funds and that lately the commission has been managing the gateway thus giving support to other government institutions. Momoh Konteh noted that he met seven hundred million Leones in the coffers of the commission but within the period of two years he was able to raise it to thirty-five billion Leones mainly through fines levied on mobile operators for substandard services. Some percentages of these moneys according to him should be in the hands of the commission for operational purposes, he therefore appealed to government through the Minister for a revisit of the Executive Order No. 1. Chairman Konteh also informed the Minister that Sierra Leone started the free mobile roaming program in the sub region but expressed dismay over its failure.
Momoh Konteh however, expressed satisfaction over the construction of a new office the commission is undertaking, which he boasted went through one of the best procurement processes and thereafter awarded to the best bidder. He noted that work is ongoing and will be completed in the not too distance future. Commissioner Konteh said that his regime took over a broke commission but with a team of men and women with integrity and according to the commission’s statutory mandate, they have been able to break grounds and turn the commission around indicating that Sierra Leone now has a voting right at the International Telecommunications Union and that the country has settled most of its telecoms debts. He also maintained that the commission had always had a very good relationship with its supervisory Ministry.
Thanking the Chairman for updating him on the activities of NATCOM the Minister said that he has been closely following the journey of the Sierra Leone Telecommunications Commission from its inception. He encouraged the commission to engage partners to achieve the ECOWAS mobile roaming project, noting that Sierra Leone deserves the best. He also hearten the commission to work in the interest of the people of this country to see that consumers are provided with quality services urging the commission to levy more fines for drop calls and poor services by service providers.
The Minister in the same vain visited the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation – SLBC. The Acting Director General took him on a conducted tour of the deplorable facilities of the SLBC. According to Acting Director Valcacel, the issues of wear and tear are all about money. He said that if the SLBC should have been receiving financial subvention from government it would have been able to upscale its services and improve the facilities of the corporation. The SLBC he said is left to fend on its own; with accrued funds from commercial programs.
Mohamed Swaray, said it is time to highlight the poor conditions of the facilities of the SLBC so that it would get the needed attention to upscale its standards. He said he will work hard with all to see that the SLBC is resuscitated to meet international standards, “the government is determined to leave tangible legacy”. The Information and Communications Minister promised to stick his neck out to see that transformational changes take place.