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Charged with fraud … Happison Muchechetere

THE trial of suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere, who is charged with defrauding the public broadcaster of $800,000, is set to begin on Monday.

Prosecutor Sharon Mashavira this week aised presiding magistrate Douglas Vakayi Chikwekwe that the State was ready for trial to begin on May 19.

It is the state’s case that, on 18 January 2013, Muchechetere, without going to tender, entered into a procurement deal with a Chinese company to purchase an audio outside broadcasting van (OB van) allegedly for $1 050 000.

According to papers before the courts, on the April 23 last year, the CEO then misrepresented to ZBC executive committee that some $495,000 secured BancABC would be enough to purchase an audio van, a cargo van and a crew bus.

The executive committee is said to have approved procurement of the items using BancABC cash.

It is further alleged that Muchechetere, currently on suspension without pay, did not disclose to the committee that he had already entered into a $1 050 000 deal for one item only, which is the radio OB van.

Muchechetere is alleged to have travelled to China alone where he signed an agreement concerning the inspection of the van which was never carried out by other members of the executive committee.

According to the signed agreement, the inspection was reportedly conducted by the committee from 17 to 19 June 2013, but the state will argue that no inspection was ever carried out.

The suspended ZBC chief is alleged to have instructed BancABC, at the beginning of July, to release $100,000 to the Chinese company for clearance and shipment of the OB Van which was delivered into Zimbabwe on 8 August 2013.

The state alleges that the offence was only discovered following the accused suspension with preliminary ZBC investigations revealing that the OB van had a market value of $350,000 instead of the $1 050 000 Muchechetere claimed prejudicing the national broadcaster of about $800,000.

Muchechetere is out on bail and was ordered to surrender his travel documents, report every Friday at CID serious fraud department and not to interfere with evidence as part of his bail conditions.

The official was suspended in November last year, while the entire board was sacked after failing to come up with a turnaround strategy for the struggling broadcaster.

It was later revealed that he was earning $44,000 while ordinary workers had gone for close to seven months without pay.

The revelations led to the so-called salary-gate scandal where executives of insolvent public companies were exposed for taking home massive pay packages while the presiding over nearly comatose organisations.

Source : New Zimbabwe

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