NEWS | Sunday, 26 August 2007

Maltacom files protest against MCA over interception system

Matthew Vella

Maltacom has filed a judicial protest against the Malta Communications Authority over payments the MCA is imposing for the operation of the legal interception system.
Telecoms companies and internet operators have to allow access to their systems to the Malta Security Services (MSS) legal interception system, and also finance its upkeep.
The controversial system, used by the Malta Security Service (MSS) to tap land and phone lines as well as electronic communication, is the subject of another lawsuit against the MCA over an alleged breach of procurement rules.
Maltacom, now rebranded as Go, is claiming the authorities can only impose on telecom firms to offer access to the legal interception system.
But the EUR2 million (Lm860,000) system has to be financed by all telecoms and internet providers, according to their total revenues. The contributions will be paid one year in advance, and the MCA refunds any overpayments once they assess the actual cost of operation for the year.
Maltacom said any payments imposed by MCA must be limited to the actual expenditure of managing the system.
It accused the MCA of failing to respect the principle of proportionality and fairness by establishing a fund into which the operators pay their dues for the upkeep of the system, which is itself controlled by the Security Services.
Vodafone Malta has also opened a lawsuit against the MCA, claiming European Union directives prohibit the authority from imposing payments which go beyond the actual expenditure for the operating the system.
Maltacom also said it had no role in the procurement of the system, which also became a source of controversy when a tendering company for the system took the MCA to court claiming discrimination in the selection process.
The European Commission is even looking into whether the procurement contract awarded to Israeli firm Verint, could have infringed European procurement rules.
An Italian firm, RCS, claims it presented the cheapest offer, and that it was later refused to appeal the MCA’s decision to award Verint Systems the contract back in December 2005.
The MCA, which led the tender procedures, has claimed the contract never fell under normal procurement rules because it concerned equipment for the Security Service, which have a special dispensation from public procurement rules.


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