The Chairperson of the Universal Service Advisory Council, along with nine other members, has been appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy, in accordance with section 102K (6) of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998. The newly appointed members include Patrick Muriithi Mwati, Amos W. Omolo (Dr.), Lily Cherono Koech, Francis Parsimei Gitau, Joy Frida Nkirole Mutuma, Ferdinand Chirure Nyongesa (Dr.), Benjamin Kiptanui Rop, and Elizabeth Limagur. James Elvis Omariba Ongwae is the immediate former Governor of Kisii County government. He will serve as the chairperson of the council.
The council’s three-year term will commence on November 15, 2023. The appointments end a hiring process that began in September after the Public Service Commission (PSC) advertised for the roles.
Role of Universal Service Advisory Council
The primary responsibility of the Universal Service Advisory Council is to advise the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) on the effective implementation of the Universal Service Fund (USF). Established under the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act, 2009, the fund ensures that communication services are accessible to all Kenyans. This is regardless of their geographical location or economic status. USF supports national initiatives with a substantial influence on enhancing the presence and reach of ICTs in rural, remote, and economically disadvantaged urban areas.
The council is crucial in overseeing the fund’s efficient utilisation to achieve its intended objectives. The funds used are drawn from charges imposed on licensees, allocations from the government, and contributions from grants and donations.
CA has been paddling through choppy waters in recent months. Even as the council begins its tenure, the regulator remains without a director general. Ezra Chiloba resigned after he was suspended on fraud allegations. The search for a new Director General has begun. CA’s board chair has had questions raised about her academic credentials. Further, the Daily Nation has alleged that Ms Mary Wambui is on the radar of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission(EACC) on a fraud-related matter.