Statement by The Most Honourable Andrew Holness
On Granting of Spectrum Licence
Delivered in Parliament on Tuesday, September 13
Special Report of Investigation Conducted into the Circumstances Surrounding the Granting and /or Issuance of a Domestic Mobile Spectrum Licence to Symbiote Investments Ltd. Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET)
The Cabinet has given serious and deliberate consideration to the recommendations contained in the Special Report of the Office of the Contractor-General, on the investigation it conducted into the circumstances surrounding the Granting and /or Issuance of a Domestic Mobile Spectrum Licence to Symbiote Investments Limited.
It is worth reminding the Parliament and advising the listening public of this very important fact:
On February 15, 2016, the former Cabinet approved the grant of a Domestic Mobile Spectrum Licence (DSML or spectrum licence) to Symbiote, for a period of fifteen (15) years, at the licence’s fee of Twenty Million Eight Hundred and Thirty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Two United States Dollars (US$20,833,332.00), subject to the following conditions:
- Confirmation from the “FID” (Financial Investigation Division of the JCF) that there was no adverse findings from the due diligence exercise; and
- No sale of the licence and no change of control or owner (directly or indirectly) without the approval of the GOJ.
The conditional approval for the grant of the DMSL was made a mere ten days before the February 25, 2016 General Elections, which resulted in a change in Administration.
The main work for my Cabinet was to determine whether the conditions set by the former Cabinet were met, but we did more than that. We carefully considered the matter and took into account the legal advice of the Attorney General. We also had consultations with the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Symbiote Investments Limited.
After very careful consideration and advice, the Government has decided to proceed with the issue of the domestic mobile spectrum licence to Symbiote Investments Limited and not to revoke the current carrier and service provider licences currently held by the company. In arriving at its decision, the Cabinet noted the following:
- the adverse traces cited in the Special OCG Report relate to information gathered up to 2009. The police have advised that the party in question is not the subject of any investigation
- non-issuance of the spectrum licence, in the circumstances, would be tantamount to a revocation of the grant of said licence and would be in violation of the principles of natural justice.
I can also inform you that, in the course of considering the matter, the Attorney General has recommended that number of areas for legislative and other actions. These include:
- placing a duty on non-natural persons who are applying for telecommunicatons licences to provide all required and relevant information about their their shareholders, directors and other officers;
- the setting of clear standards to determine whether an applicant for a telecommunications licence is fit and proper and placing an ongoing duty on the regulatory authorities to remain satisfied that a telecommunications licensee is fit and proper;
- a mechanism to enable the relevant authorities to determine which adverse trace finding, where any exists, would result in a failure of the fit and proper test;
- a requirement that a person who is the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Contractor-General and/or against whom the Office of the Contractor General is about to make an adverse finding be given a hearing in the course of the investigation and/or before the publication of its report; and
- an overall review of the legal and regulatory framework for the telecommunications industry, to correct drafting deficiencies and other weaknesses, to reflect contemporary realities, including the emergence of new technologies and to cover issues such as equipment testing, as well as emergency use of spectrum by the security forces;
The OCG raised some issues about conflict of interest. Cabinet takes seriously any perceived or real conflict of interest in any public servant and give the assurance that appropriate action will be taken to address the concerns in this regard.
The Spectrum Management Authority reported its concerns about unauthorised use of the spectrum. Let me make it clear that the matter of the unlawful use of the spectrum by Symbiote is to be dealt with by the the Spectrum Management Authority, in its regulatory capacity, in accordance with the law.