20 MARCH 2002
By Miriam Dunn
Maltacom chief executive Stephen Muscat has told The Malta Financial and Business Times that the company had no alternative but to provide import certificates for IT&T merchandise and would have gladly stopped offering the service if the government had permitted it to do so.
He was reacting to our story published two weeks ago in which we reported that operators and importers are incensed that Maltacom is refusing to back down over backdated sums of money owed for certification stamps provided by the telecommunications company. Although some of the cases have been resolved, a number are stuck in court. The traders argued that the sums of money Maltacom was demanding for the certifications were too high and also stated that much of the equipment had already been given a certificate abroad before it was exported.
But Mr Muscat pointed out that as the telecomms expert appointed by government through a legal notice to give the certificates, Maltacom was obliged to provide the service, when the company took on the role of operator and the government assumed the position of regulator.
"In fact, if we had failed to give the certificates, there would have been chaos, and no importation of these products," he said.
Maltacoms chief executive also stressed that the telecomms company was also obliged by law to chase the money it was owed for providing the certificates and that any concessions would have had to be directed from the government itself.
"But we have to ensure we collect the payments due, whether they come from the government or from the operators," he said.
The controversy relates to payments due for certifications awarded prior to 1998-2001. At the end of last year, Maltacom was no longer involved in giving out the certificates.
According to the GRTU, which represents the operators, the Malta Communications Authority took on board a suggestion that a separate approval should not be needed if the product already had a bona fide certification from an institution elsewhere.
Mr Muscat stressed that Maltacom had no dispute with the GRTU and also reiterated the fact that the company had only been carrying out its legal obligations when issuing the certificates.
"The money we are chasing relates partly to the services we provided, but also in part to sums owed to the government," he said.