Malawi roll out ‘spy machine’: Macra can now listen people’s phone conversations


Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has rolled out in full swing the controversial Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management Systems (Cirms) machine, widely known as the ‘spy’ machine that is also used to listen to subscribers’ private conversations .

Soon after it t was known that Macra has acquired the machine, communications operators in the country went up in arms, fighting against the acquisition claiming that the machine was meant to spy over people’s phone conversations, a position which Macra and government disputed.

But the industry’s regulator no longer dispute that as the implantation of the ‘spy machine’ coincides with manadatory SIM Card registration for all phone users by March 31 deadline.

Macra director general Godfrey Itaye confimed the regulator is now implementing the software.
Itaye added that with Cirms in use, the regulator will be able to get revenue assurance from operators as well as having firsthand information on quality of service from phone service providers.

To operators, Itaye said Cirms will enable them to realise increased revenues as bypass calls will be put in check with less frequency interference while at the same time generating more revenue to the government.

TNM obtained a stay order stopping Macra from implementing the system, arguing Macra’s decision to implement Cirms was unreasonable because there was no legal framework for its implementation. Macra in October 2015 was given a go-ahead by the High Court in Zomba to proceed with implementation and use of the Cirms to monitor mobile phone operators.

Macra argues that Cirms will improve its regulatory monitoring functions in four key areas of quality service, revenue assurance, fraud management, and spectrum allocation and management.

Cirms is expected to generate $3 million (about K2.07 billion at current exchange rate) for Macra in annual revenue.

Macra bought the machine from Agilis International Inc in 2010 at $6 142 608 (about K2.8 billion) and has since re-engaged the supplier who recommended the upgrading of the Cirms’ hardware and software due to technical advancement.

The supplier revised the contractual price from $6 142 608 to $13 871 969 (about K6.2 billion), meaning that Macra would have to pay an extra $7 729 361 (about K3.4 billion), according to a report.


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