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GOVERNMENT has decided it will not deal with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) audit as an isolated case, but will treat it as a representation of other government enterprises and use it to inform reformation of these entities.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba, told the Financial Gazette that the government had decided to use the ZBC forensic audit report beyond the broadcaster but also as a microcosm of state enterprises and parastatals in general.

“Government’s view on the ZBC report is not to regard it as atypical, but that it has to be regarded as representative of government enterprises and parastatals,” Charamba said. “You cannot isolate ZBC findings but they must be tested on their applicability to other state enterprises.”

The ZBC forensic audit report, which was commissioned by the auditor general’s office to KPMG, had three main elements, namely criminal elements which will be dealt with through litigation restructuring elements which would be dealt with by ZBC management and lastly it also served the purpose of developing new rules for government on how to deal with State enterprises, Charamba explained.

The development of rules by government would be done through the Cabinet Committee on Parastatals the Cabinet itself which would endorse what the committee recommends and finally the implementation by the respective portfolio ministries.

“What it means is that the ZBC report becomes part of what we are doing with Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset). Under ZimAsset there is an issue of reforming state enterprises and parastals as they constitute 60 percent of government business and gobbles the same amount of resources,” Charamba said.

The chief secretary in the President’s Office, who deals with parastatals Misheck Sibanda could not be reached for comment.

But Charamba said that out of the ZBC report could be drawn lessons and canons that could be used to create a new regime for governance for the country.

“The KPMG report should be read with a view to getting lessons and canons for augmentation and adjustment,” he said.

The presidential spokesperson also said that the canons derived would be made to dovetail with the National Code on Corporate Governance in Zimbabwe which was developed by the private sector and government in May this year.

“We are writing new rules for State enterprises and parastatals,” Charamba said.

The ZBC report, which was finalised over a month ago, has seen heads roll as members of top management was implicated in scamming the broadcaster of huge sums of money. Meanwhile, government is frantically trying to clean up house at ZBC in time for the aent of digitalisation which is expected to turn the broke parastatal into an overnight cash cow.

Digitalisation of the broadcasting industry, which is expected to take effect by June 2015, will make ZBC liquid instantly as the new system will take in monthly subscriptions from viewers and is poised to give the free to air television a run for their money. The switching off of analogue television to digital will see viewers through the use of set top boxes – decoder like in nature – accessing more channels and with better quality for a monthly subscription at a fraction of what is offered on the market currently.

Presently subscribing for free to air channels, depending on what bouquet one chooses, ranges from US$10 to US$78 and even beyond per month. Government is planning on offering their service for less than US$5 per month.

“Government has been discussing monthly subscriptions of less than US$5 and because we will have an increased number of channels, some of which we will keep for ZBC and others will be allocated to private broadcasters, we are certain we will attract the numbers. And there is nothing to stop anyone from offering the very same channels and bouquet currently being offered on the market,” said George Charamba, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services.

The digital system will increase channels per frequency from one to 21 if standard definition and 15 if high definition.

According to Charamba as soon as digitalisation starts the subscriptions will see the ailing broadcaster’s financial situation improve drastically. “ZBC will go in the blue almost immediately,” Charamba said. “It will just be like ZESA where cash is always coming in. And when that happens we make sure there is no rotten staff.”

To that end, and as per the findings and recommendations of the recent forensic audit on ZBC, the broadcaster will undergo major restructuring which should prune it of individuals and systems which have been draining the institution of revenue. “You don’t want to get that liquid with a rotten management. That is why there are frantic efforts to clean the mess up and give the ZBC a decent management,” Charamba said.

According to the permanent secretary, the ZBC had become “rotten” to the core. “We are talking a rotten culture which malfeasances which ensnared even the good. Even new recruits would fast go rotten,” he said. “Short of a fire it is difficult to clean up the mess at the broadcaster. It needs to be burnt clean.”

ZBC rot came to the fore late last year when Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and his team unearthed rampant bleeding of the parastatal by management. The chief executive took home US$40 000 a month in salary and benefits while other members of management also raked in tens of thousands, it was discovered. All this against a background where none managerial staff had gone for more than six months without pay and the institution was reeling from a huge debt. This precipitated a forensic audit which has since revealed that management had swindled the organisation out of thousands of dollars through inflated invoices, and some expenditures not approved by the board, among a battery of other financial dishonesty.

While the chief executive Happison Muchechetere was dismissed at the time the anomalous management of the broadcaster came to light three other staffers were suspended last week after they were fingered in the audit for prejudicing the institution of more than US$5 million. These were Allan Chiweshe, acting CEO Elliot Kasu, finance director and Tazzen Mandizvidza, general manager – news.

For years due to chiefly mismanagement, among a few other reasons including poor programming and political interference which led to aertisers’ flight, the broadcaster has limped on. It is hoped digitalisation and its dividends will breathe life into the comatose parastatal.

Funding for the digitalisation had seemed impossible only a few months ago, with government missing the SADC deadline last year. However, the Financial Gazette understands that the ministry has managed to source funds to resource the exercise of digitalisation to an amount upwards of US$150 million. “We are happy to say that in just a few weeks these monies will be availed to the ministry for the exercise to be carried out,” Charamba said.

Source : Financial Gazette

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