MPs to investigate money returned by TRC to telecom companies

(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Head of the Lower House Finance Committee Mohammad Al-Saudi is forming an investigating subcommittee, comprising members from the Finance Committee, to investigate the return of JD37 million to telecommunications companies by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), which “lacked a clear justification”. Key figures in the subcommittee include deputies Mohammad Fayez and Firas Ajarmeh; more members might be added in the coming days.اضافة اعلان

According to an Al-Rai News report, the Jordanian telecommunications sector generated JD75.2 million during the first nine months of 2021, representing a 26.8 percent increase over the same period of 2020.

MP Saudi, who requested the formation of the committee to investigate this issue, told Jordan News: “The TRC has been collecting approximately JD3 million on an annual basis from prominent telecommunications companies. For the past 12 years or so, the TRC has been returning these amounts to these companies, at a total of around JD37 million.”

Member of the investigation subcommittee Omar Naber told Jordan News: “There is an agreement that has been signed by the TRC and the main telecommunications companies, and it stipulates that 1 percent of revenues generated by these companies shall go to the TRC.”

Article 2.2 of the agreement reads: “The licensee shall pay to the TRC an annual license fee based on a percentage of the operating revenues arising from its licensed activities. The percentage shall be determined by the TRC, but shall not exceed 1 percent of such revenues. The annual license fee shall be recovered from all licensees in order to recover the costs of the TRC in regulating the Jordanian telecommunications and information technology sector.”

“While the license agreement does allow the TRC to return the funds to the telecommunication companies if it does not spend that money, I cannot help but ask why the TRC is choosing not to spend this revenue that it collected from these companies,” Naber said.

“When we asked the TRC for an explanation on why they are returning these amounts, they said that it is because the Ministry of Finance has not raised the TRC’s annual budget, and this prevents it from being able to spend the funds collected annually from the telecommunications companies as part of its budget,” Naber added.

“I am skeptical about this, because the TRC could simply ask the ministry to raise its budget [by the collected amount]. Some consider this to be a misuse of public funds, and further investigation is needed,” he said.

The matter has posed a challenge to Lower House Finance Committee, in Saudi’s view, because “we have a responsibility to extensively analyze the general budget, and at the moment, we need every single dinar, because there will be many institutions who will outline their financial needs to us in the coming weeks”.

“Telecom companies have been profitable for some time now, and they are by no means financially strained. The TRC has a legal right to spend the revenue that it collects,” Saudi said.

The full scope of the situation will become clearer after discussions surrounding the 2022 general budget are concluded, he said, which might take “until the end of February”. He also said that the investigating subcommittee is currently preparing “the text and logistics” to deal with the subject of the TRC and the funds it has remitted to telecom companies.

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