Usaasa faces shortfall on broadband roll-out

Usaasa management. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Usaasa management. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – A strategic broadband plan for the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (Usaasa) is hampered by an acute lack of funding, the agency has said.

Usaasa this week presented its 'Strategic Plan to Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises' on how it would facilitate government’s goal of universal broadband access by 2020.

The entity, which has been the subject of forensic investigations by the department of communications and Treasury said that it was facing an acute financial shortage in fulfilling its mandate to facilitate national broadband access.

“Out of the R262m that was allocated in the 2015/16 financial year, only R66m of that was actually an allocation for operational purposes which means that there was an additional allocation that was given, that was R196m that was specifically allocated for the BDM [Broadcasting Digital Migration] project management and distribution costs,” Vuyo Ntshoko executive manager of Performance Management at Usaasa told the committee.

Ntshoko said that out of 226 municipalities in SA, 195 in seven provinces were found to be lacking in broadband roll-out plans.

Operational risks

READ: National SA broadband roll-out to cost a fortune

Usaasa has undertaken negotiations with service providers on a “least cost” basis to, in some cases, to connect basic telephony, Ntshoko added.

In the 2017/18 financial year, Usaasa would only connect two municipalities, because of the available funds, said Ntshoko.

The agency also faced operational risks that include a lack of skills and migration of its internal process to the SAP system, said Makhotso Moiloa Acting CEO, and executive manager of operations at Usaasa.

She said that Usaasa began the process of decommissioning the old system in the 2015/16 financial year and had also connected 195 schools and 93 clinics to broadband.

However, the agency reported financial difficulties arising from the failure of the departments of basic education and health to take over the connectivity costs after Usaasa’s initial 24 month period.

Acting Usaasa chair Mawethu Cawe said that despite pending investigative outcomes, he was positive about the future of the agency and was pushing for closer co-operation with the provinces.

“We need to find a way of collaborating and working together. We synergise resources with the provinces and with your help, we need to come the extent of having MOUs with the provinces,” said Cawe.


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