Namibia’s first mobile telecommunications company, MTC, has refuted claims by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) that outstanding levies are due to the regulator.
A Namibia Press Agency article in yesterday’s New Era stated that MTC and Telecom Namibia together owe CRAN some N$300 million in outstanding levies, interest and penalties.
“MTC is obliged to pay annual license fees to CRAN. MTC’s annual license fee payments to CRAN is up to date and we paid an amount of N$116.7 million from 2013 to 2016. Our levy payment is therefore up to date until the regulation and/or S23 of the Act was declared unconstitutional and I can therefore confirm that MTC does not owe the regulator any outstanding levies,” said MTC executive Tim Ekandjo, in a strongly worded media statement.
Calling the Wednesday article misleading, in the sense that it gives the impression that MTC owes CRAN, Ekandjo explained; “In a nutshell, there was a High Court judgement that was upheld by the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of section 23 of the Act relating to administrative and licensing fees. The Supreme Court’s judgment agreed with MTC’s argument that the Act was not constitutional in that section 23(2) (a) of the Act gives CRAN ‘uncircumscribed discretion’ in levying ‘revenue and taxation’ which should be reserved for the legislature. The general rule in law is that legislation should be ascertainable, i.e. an operator who is charged with a levy should know exactly what levy is payable for planning purposes.” Ekandjo added that subsequent to the Supreme Court decision, CRAN instituted legal action in 2019 for the payment of levies from 2016 to 2018. However, based on their interpretation of the effective date of the Supreme Court judgment, MTC defended this action and on 26 February 2020, the High Court agreed with MTC’s view that the ruling of the Supreme Court was effective 29 September 2016, being the High Court ruling.
Meanwhile, CRAN CEO Emilia Nghikembua, on Monday before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information, Communication, Technology and Innovation, said although CRAN has the power to withdraw licences of non-complying entities, such powers are exerted with care as this could have major economic repercussions and would negatively affect consumers across the country.