As Sierra Leone Cable (SALCAB) stands on the threshold of unbundling, Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rado Swarray insists that the security aspect of the agency must be handled by the state.
The third party to whom the company will be leased handles the commercial aspect.
Mr Swarray maintained his stance on the security side of SALCAB at a press conference held at the Ministry of Information and Communication the previous week.
It was made clear by Mr Swarray during the press briefing that although SALCAB would be unbundled, government will not entrust the security aspect to a private entity
The Minster has been quite critical from the outset for a private entity to control the security side of SALCAB after a letter was addressed to the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) by SALCAB Managing Director, Ishmail Kebbay.
The SALCAB letter of 19th August, 2019 sought an approval from NPPA to commence a bid process for the transformation of SALCAB into a private entity.
“We are proposing a business model that will allow SALCAB outsource the operations of the submarine fibre optic network to a third party via lease operation model,” the latter reads in part.
The letter further states that the entity to whom SALCAB will be leased bears the cost of operation, maintenance, administrative and commercial cost of the landing station while giving SALCAB a fixed revenue for the month.
The letter for the bid approval came after the first letter dated 29th January, 2020 requesting NPPA for selective or restrictive sourcing of SALCAB operations.
NPPA did not grant the request for the selective sourcing request, but permitted the open tender so that competent persons or business organisations or individuals would have the opportunity to come in in a transparent manner.
However, the Minister ordered that all processes in respect of the privatisation of SALCAB be put on hold to ensure that the correct process was done.
The Information Minister was highly concerned about entrusting the whole operations of SALCAB to a private entity since it has the potential to compromise national security.
However Minister Swarray’s insistence on handling the security side of the agency was wrongly perceived by the public.
Little wonder that accusations of a sale of SALCAB to a private agency were made against him.
The SALCAB issue generated the greatest debates and controversies that compel parliament to summon the minister.
Mr Swarray appeared before the parliamentary Committee on Transparency and Accountability the previous Thursday, and justified the unbundling of SALCAB.
He told parliamentarians that the unbundling of SALCAB was in the country’s interest, but the security side must be handled by the state.
Between 2013 and 2014, Government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Information revoked the equity of private individuals, and refunded the capital contributed per share of the private partners of SALCAB.
Government took full control of the facility whose landing station has been operating since 2014 to date.
Despite government taking the lead to set the stage for the stimulation of the country’s digital economy, it needs to protect her investment by employing the right business model that will pay off associated liabilities and earn returns on investment.
A Document seen by this medium shows that SALCAB is expanding too thin and horizontal through the in-sourcing, operations, maintenance and commercialisation of the submarine optical and terrestrial networks.
It also shows that SALCAB has not been profitable since its formation and operation under the Public Private Partnership model up to a time government took full control the station’s facility.