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Spy Machine: Who’s fooling who?

LILONGWE: The debate over the so called spy machine turned fierce before a committee of parliament Wednesday afternoon when MACRA officials and phone operators met face to face.

The two sides were appearing before the communications parliamentary committee to present their arguments.

Macra maintained that the machine will ensure quality and maximize revenue collection but the operators insisted on their complaint that people will be reluctant to make calls because the machine has the ability to tap calls.

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority – MACRA board member Mr. Richard Chisala told the Media and Communications Committee of Parliament that the regulatory body has no hidden motive in the implementation of the Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System.

Mr. Chisala maintains the machine will enable MACRA to enforce quality assurance and ensure that fraudulent activities in the telecommunications industry are minimized thereby increasing revenue collection.

He said the issue of espionage, as feared by phone operators is not true saying MACRA will not connect their machine at the switch where telephone or text messages can be accessed.

But officials from three phone operators, TNM, AIRTEL and MTL that appeared before the committee took turns to dispute that the CIRMS machine will increase revenue collection nor improve quality of services.

Airtel Malawi Managing Director Mr. Saulosi Chilima challenged the regulatory body to demonstrate how the machine will increase revenue or bring forex in the country.

Mr. Chilima warned that once the machine is implemented, both government and phone operators will lose revenue as customers will choose not to make calls for fear of being spied on.

He expressed amazement at the level of desperation by the regulator to have the project implemented challenging that if the project goes ahead and in six months there is an increase in revenue as insisted by MACRA, he would resign.

On his part MTL Chief Executive Officer Mr. Charles Chuka said quality of services can only improve if phone operators increase investment and not necessarily through use of the machine.

Mr. Chuka alleged that MACRA is no longer an independent regulator and believes that the machine will be used to victimize people with opposing views from those of government.

After hearing arguments and counter arguments from the two sides, chairperson of the media and communications committee of parliament Mr. Sam Ganda said the committee does not want to be judge as to who is right or wrong but wanted to hear from both sides in order to make informed decisions on the matter. - Zodiak Online

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