Malawi was warned against ‘Spy machine’

The installation of the “spy machine” will not only infringe on your right to privacy but it may also automatically increase the cost of calling Malawi from abroad and stop many  in the diaspora from being in touch telephonically, the London based GSM Association said in a letter to government and Macra.
The warning came two weeks before Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), signed a contract with US firm Agilis International Inc to install new devices to increase revenue collection, transparency, and improve the service apart from the controversial
eavesdropping capabilities it also has.
GSM Association, representatives of the global phone mobile industry, said in a letter dated July 7, 2011 to then Minister of Information Vuwa Kaunda, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Bright Msaka and Macra’s Charles Nsaliwa, that introducing traffic monitoring devices to collect additional taxes has long term effects on the country’s revenue.
“The suppliers of the monitoring devices claim that the implementation of such systems increases transparency and provides a means for governments of African countries to mitigate revenue disadvantages associated with imbalances in incoming and outbound traffic volumes
between developing and the developed markets.
In reality, however, such surtaxes are harmful to both operators and consumers and are ultimately counterproductive for governments…” GSM Association said in a letter written by Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer.
But OPC, ministry of information and Macra ignored the advice and went ahead to pay US$2 million as part payment for the device. Macra is in the process of paying US$4.8 million before the other components could be shipped into Malawi.
“Short term gains by government in tax revenue are quickly offset because of the longer term negative on taxation resulting from the fall of traffic and consequent reduction in termination revenue,” said Phillips in the letter.
He gave an example of Senegal who also introduced the new system in June last year and later suspended it in November of the same year following significant reductions in international incoming traffic volumes.
“For the reasons stated…,the GSMA strongly believes that such taxes are against the long term interests of consumers, operators and the country as a whole, and we would discourage you wholeheartedly from introducing this system in Malawi,” the letter reads in part.
GSM Association warned both Malawi and Gabon on the new system. Gabon has since suspended the project. Senegal also suspended it early this year.
The Minister of Information Vuwa Kaunda yesterday said he can’t remember receiving such a letter when asked why Malawi didn’t respond to GSM Association.
Msaka could not be reached for comment while Nsaliwa is away in Geneva.