Govt queried over communication towers project

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 07:52:52 +0000

 

By Mukosela Kasalwe

GOVERNMENT’S decision to proceed with the second phase of the multi-million kwacha Communications Towers Project with the same contractor given the deficiencies of the first phase is worrying, says the Consumer Unity Trust Society.

CUTS assistant programme officer, Leah Phiri, explained that the tender document given by ZICTA instructed the contracted vendor to ensure that, among other things, the installed radio access equipment on the erected towers provided rural macro-coverage of at least 5km in radius.

However, findings by CUTS under a social accountability campaign reveal that a number of towers fell short of meeting the 5km macro-coverage radius requirement as specified in the bidding document.

Ms Phiri said in a statement yesterday that having followed the project since its inception, CUTS has noted with concern the Government’s decision to proceed with the second phase of the communication towers project with the same contractor given the deficiencies of the first phase of the project.

“As the Government proceeds with the second phase of the project, CUTS is deeply concerned that the towers that will be erected in this phase will be plagued with the same inefficiencies as those detected in the initial phase,” said Ms Phiri.

She said that CUTS had engaged the Parliamentary Committee on Telecommunications and raised its concerns with issues of the first phase of the project and insisted that the deficiencies need to be addressed before the project continued.

Ms Phiri said that in response to CUTS’ findings, ZICTA had confirmed that it was aware that the towers erected by Huawei Technologies Zambia were below the required standard, and as such indicated that the contractor would work on the towers again once the second phase of the project started.

CUTS further questioned what mechanism the Government will put in place to ensure that the towers erected in the second phase are continuously monitored for quality and that the faulty towers in the first phase are corrected.

Ms Phiri noted that the project will see close to 500 new communication towers being built around the country which will be significantly greater than the 200 towers erected during the first phase by Huawei Technologies.

The NGO said that mobile services are no longer a luxury given the results of a nationwide survey undertaken by CUTS which indicated that 63 percent of Zambians have mobile phones which they used daily, and 77 percent used them at least once a week.

In 2014, the Government launched a project entitled ‘‘Connecting chiefdom towers’’ through ZICTA to close the digital gap between urban and rural areas.

Early this week, Minister of Transport and Communication, Brian Mushimba, launched the second phase of the Communication Towers Project at Nanjuca in Western Province to improve access to information and communication technology, especially in rural areas.

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