Mystery shrouds LCA project


As Authority partners global ICT provider for traffic monitoring and revenue assurance


 MASERU – Local telecommunication companies remain in the dark with regard to a Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) project on the implementation of a cutting-edge system to monitor national and international telecommunications traffic.

A statement issued earlier this month by South Africa-based ByDesign Communications on behalf of implementing company, Global Voice Group (GVG), the LCA and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) have already begun work on the project.

The system will help to increase revenue assurance, combat network fraud and enforce billing integrity across all communication networks available in the country and shall be provided by leading regulatory technology developer and Big Data Analytics organisation GVG, according to ByDesign Communications Associate and Media Lead, Peter Mokoko. ByDesign handles GVG’s media and communications affairs.

Founded in 1998 and present in 11 countries, GVG is a global provider of ICT and RegTech solutions for governments and regulatory bodies.

The company assists governments and authorities, through Big Data analytics, in their digital transformation and in the effective promotion of compliant and truly inclusive digital ecosystems. They monitor, collect and analyse data from crucial economic sectors to turn it into actionable information.

The implementation of this technological infrastructure from GVG by the LCA is the first step towards the effective promotion of a compliant and inclusive digital and mobile ecosystem for Lesotho. But, according to local network operator Vodacom Lesotho as a stakeholder, the company knows nothing about this initiative by the LCA.

“Until there is formal communication and engagement with the regulator we will not be in a position to comment,” Acting Executive Head of Department: Legal Regulatory and External Affairs, Advocate Tšepo Ntaopane, told this publication.

Econet Lesotho would similarly not be drawn into discussions into the LCA project, with Public Relations Manager, Puleng Litabe, saying, “I am afraid I can’t comment on this regulatory issue.”

LCA Public Affairs Manager, Tšiu Tšiu, also failed to provide any particulars on the matter. Instead, he said he was in between meetings and “I am not sure I can find details of the project.”

Public Eye had sought to establish if the two local networks had been roped into deliberations leading to the engagement of the international company, and how the project will benefit the companies and their clientele. The paper also wanted to establish the cost and duration of the exercise. GVG could also not be drawn into detailing its involvement and scope, as well as the cost of the LCA project.

Mokoko told this publication yesterday that, “Unfortunately GVG is not able to comment on this right now, but there shall be a follow-up statement that will be shared and will include the information that you are looking for.”

Meanwhile, GVG CEO James Claude, has said with partnerships like these the company will enable solid telecom metrics for tax collection purposes, fraud detection and market compliance with regulations to protect consumers and operators in Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

“The RegTech solution provided by GVG enhances the oversight capabilities of the LCA and POTRAZ to the benefit of all stakeholders, including the State, the industry and all citizens.

“By enabling the regulators to see, in real-time, what is really going on in the telecom sector, it dramatically improves the governance of a sector that plays a major role in the socio-economic development of the two countries,” he added.

Revenue leakage in the telecommunications sector is an issue that many African countries are still battling and the adoption of technology is going to aid them in rectifying the problem.

In Ghana, an illegal interconnect bypass fraud operation was dismantled in October and November 2020. This operation was estimated to have resulted in losses of about US$2 million (M29.2 million) per month.

The establishment and execution of the Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS) in Zimbabwe is part of POTRAZ’s strategic agenda to adopt new technologies in the regulatory framework of the country.

The adoption of these technological solutions will allow individual state regulators to identify criminal operations more easily.

On the African continent, there has been a slow but gradual adoption of technological solutions by regulatory agencies and authorities to assist them in their oversight role, and the step taken by the regulatory agencies in Lesotho and Zimbabwe is a step forward in making their oversight roles more robust and efficient, according to GVG.

A July 6, 2020, Interpol report has revealed that criminals were infiltrating Africa’s booming mobile money industry, making it a fast growing sector that has been linked to human trafficking, money laundering and global drugs trade, among other crimes.

A new report has also found the billion dollar mobile money industry in Africa is being exploited by organised crime groups – a trend only set to increase as the service is rolled out across the continent.

The ‘Mobile money and organised crime in Africa’  report presents an overview of the criminal exploitation of mobile money services, including fraud, money laundering, extortion, human trafficking and people smuggling, illegal wildlife trade and terrorism.

The African continent is considered the “world leader” in the mobile money industry, accounting for nearly half of all registered mobile money accounts globally.

The prominent role that mobile money plays in African societies and economies, and the rapid pace at which its infrastructure has been developed, has enabled criminals to “exploit weaknesses in regulations and identification systems” and commit mobile money-enabled crimes.

The report further notes that mobile money itself has proven to be a positive force for financial inclusion and economic development in many African countries, and that a more cash-based informal economy can sometimes present even graver challenges to law enforcement.

However, lack of robust identity checks to verify users, combined with a need for greater law enforcement resources and training on mobile money-enabled crimes have created a financial system distinctly vulnerable to criminal infiltration.

Types of ID required to register for a mobile money account are not standardised across Africa and acceptable documents range from national identity cards to company IDs, tax certificates and even driver’s licenses.

While such a broad spectrum of acceptable IDs benefit the growth of mobile money services, it also increases their vulnerability to fraud, money laundering and other crimes.

In parallel, despite progress in conviction rates for mobile money-enabled crimes, the technical expertise and equipment required to complete investigations can prove difficult to integrate into the court process.

By 2025, Interpol adds, smartphone user rates in Sub-Saharan Africa alone are projected to rise from roughly 39 percent today to 66 percent. Higher smartphone adoption, combined with a wider array of mobile money services on offer, will likely increase the number of transactions performed through smartphone apps.

“The evidence shows that criminals are already exploiting mobile money services in Africa. The anonymity that these services too often allow and the technical nature of the industry also present a challenge to law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting these crimes,” Cyril Gout, Interpol Acting Director of Operational Support and Analysis is reported observing.

Interpol assists police in Africa to adopt proactive strategies to combat organised crime threats, facilitate information exchange and enhance investigative skills.

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