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Just abolish the Dept of Communications

ITWeb reports that a letter has been sent to the police, half the government oversight committees and the Presidency, in which fraud and kickback accusations related to the hiring of staff in South Africa’s Department of Communications are alleged.

It quotes the official opposition’s Dene Smuts:

It has been clear for some time that the quality and qualifications of many of the department’s personnel — with notable exceptions like Dr Harold Wesso — is not up to the standard one expects from a key government department which can make or break South Africa’s communications sector. If [the allegations] are found to be true, it would explain the poor quality of the appointments.

The department’s heavy-handed management of the telecommunications sector has failed dismally. It has led to sky-high pricing, underdevelopment and lack of service to poor areas, largely because it confused mere privatisation with free market competition, as described in this damning report by Robert B Horwitz and Willie Currie.

It may once have been worth giving the policy of “managed liberalisation” a chance, but it’s been clear for some years now that the system is broken, and that big-bang liberalisation couldn’t possibly be worse than the mess the Department of Communication has wrought. Let the regulator do basic jobs like policing spectrum use, and leave both existing and new operators free to build whatever networks they want.

The story notes that the department has a 37% vacancy rate. Here’s hoping that this scandal will make it 100% by Christmas.