LTA’s New Tariff a ‘Burden’ on Consumers

first_imgThe National Association of Telecommunications & ICT Consumers (NATELCO) is suggesting that the US$0.05 tariff (fee) required of telecommunications service providers by the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), for all outgoing international calls, contravenes all processes and procedures as enshrined in the LTA Consultation Process Guidelines. According to the consumers’ group, the new regulation is too abrupt, burdensome and unacceptable. On July 31 this year, the LTA through its board chair, Angelique Weeks, issued an order establishing regulatory surcharges for both incoming and outgoing international voice traffic. The order took effect 30 days from the date of issuance, which was the end of August, 2015. According to the terms of the regulation, all international calls from Liberia shall incur a regulatory surcharge of US$0.05 per minute to be paid to the LTA by the originating service provider. Telecommunications operators have said that the surcharge will have to be borne completely by consumers. The LTA Consultation Process Guidelines require that, “prior to issuing of any order or any exercise of its authority that is likely to have any substantial impact on network operators, service providers, any other market participant or the general public, the LTA shall conduct a process of public consultation appropriate to the circumstances and shall take account of the results of the public consultation in the final exercise of its authority.”It states further that, at the conclusion of the consultation process, the LTA shall publish a brief report on the results. “Unfortunately, all of these steps were not taken into consideration prior to the issuance of the order to increase the tariff,” said chairman of NATELCO, Bartholomew Wilson.He described the newly introduced US$0.05 tariff (fee) as a “burden” on mobile-phone users, which customers will pay to service providers on all international calls from Liberia. In a press statement issued yesterday, Mr. Wilson called on the LTA to revisit its recent decision regarding the added tariff for outgoing international voice calls. “What concerns us most is the manner and form in which this regulation was issued and the overall trickle-down effect it is sure to pose on the over 2 million consumers, that majority survive on overseas support from family members and relatives especially during difficult times like these,” Mr. Wilson said.He continued, “We all know the economic burden the Ebola crisis has incurred on the livelihood of our people; in a country where there is complete economic devastation, with basic institutional collapse. The least we want to see is any regulation/order that will not add to the suffering of the people who are still striving to recover from a period of chaos and hardship.”He explained further that his group will continue to speak against any such regulation that will undermine the interest of the consuming populace.Mr. Wilson is convinced the LTA’s order “is an indirect attempt to impose financial burden on consumers,” who will ultimately bear the burden of the new regulation, which contradicts the preamble of the Consumers’ Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights states that, “the LTA maintains that the consumer is King and that it is the obligation of all service providers to respect and uphold their rights.”He meanwhile called on the LTA, the National Legislature, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, and all service providers to immediately suspend the implementation of the order until a proper consultation is carried out.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

DoJ Watchdog Finds Lax Approach to Mortgage Fraud

first_img FBI Justice Department Mortgage Fraud 2014-03-14 Colin Robins An audit performed by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that mortgage fraud wasn’t prioritized as highly as claimed in public statements by the Department of Justice.The audit, led by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, found instances of a low prioritization of mortgage fraud: “For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest ranked criminal threat in its lowest crime category.”According to the FBI, loan origination scams used to be the most prevalent type of mortgage fraud, due to the ease of getting a loan. With tightened restrictions on lending, foreclosure rescue scams, loan modification schemes, and short sale frauds have displaced loan origination scams.FBI field offices visited by the OIG, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York, listed mortgage fraud to be a low priority—if it was listed as a priority at all.”We also found that while the FBI received $196 million in appropriated funding to investigate mortgage fraud activities from fiscal years 2009 through 2011, in FY 2011 the number of FBI agents investigating mortgage fraud as well as the number of pending investigations decreased,” the audit said.Additionally, a press conference held by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was held to report the results of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative. The attorney general announced 530 criminal defendants had been charged in 285 criminal indictments, as well as 110 federal civil cases were filed against more than 150 defendants involving over 15,000 victims, for losses totaling at least $37 million.The attorney general concluded that these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims for losses estimated at more than $1 billion.However, the audit by the OIG found these numbers to be inaccurate.”Based on a review of the case list that was the basis for the figures, the then-Executive Director of the FFETF told us that numerous significant errors and inaccuracies existed with the information,” the audit reported.The audit also remarked, “We also found that neither DoJ nor the FFETF had an established methodology for obtaining and verifying the criminal mortgage fraud statistics announced during the press conference on October 9, 2012. We found this process to be disturbing, and it led the Department to report inaccurate information to the public.”In a later statement, the DoJ amended its results, noting the initiative charged 107 defendants, and not 530. The total estimated losses were $95 million, and not the reported $1 billion.”Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases that it issued in the ensuing 10 months,” the audit said.The OIG offered recommendations for improvement to the DoJ including updating online materials related to the Distressed Homeowner Initiative, as well as suggesting to “[i]mplement a methodology for properly soliciting, collecting, and reviewing information before publicly reporting results.” March 14, 2014 472 Views in Daily Dose, Featured, Government, Headlines, Newscenter_img DoJ Watchdog Finds Lax Approach to Mortgage Fraud Sharelast_img read more