It is reported that early this year Vice President Mnangagwa was approached by the Sports minister Hlongwane seeking funds to support the senior soccer team’s trip to Gabon for the Afcon tournament. This was after Hlongwane was approached by Zifa president, Philip Chiyangwa for those funds.
Mnangagwa, being the problem solver that he is then ordered Potraz to loan Zifa funds to the tune of $1m, according to the reports. So apparently POTRAZ had a million bucks just lying around and decided to help out their fellow comrades at Zifa.
The million dollars were siphoned from the Universal Services Fund which is collected by POTRAZ. Contributors to the fund are all the licensed telecommunications companies in this country and they contribute 2% of their annual revenue to it. That makes it quite a fund, what with Econet one of those companies.
The Universal Services Fund (USF) was established to finance the expansion of telecommunications in under-serviced outlying areas. Seeing as we still have under-serviced areas in this country one wonders how the USF can have excessive funds to loan out. The loan was given early this year and to this day it has not been repaid.
There were reports that the loan had been written off by POTRAZ but the minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira refuted those assertions. He acknowledged that the loan has not been repaid but said it had not been written off.
Some asked Mandiwanzira why a fund meant for telecommunications expansion was used to fund sporting activities and he said it is normal for parastatals to help out other state agencies. He then said,
It is not the prerogative of USF to determine how money requested by the government should be utilised. Its responsibility is to ensure that the money is repaid.
Mandiwanzira himself got a $194,000 car loan from POTRAZ, which probably was from USF as well. This was revealed by the Attorney General mid last year. The above quote takes on a new meaning when you consider this.
The problem we have however is that USF is not being used enough for the purpose it was established for. Mandiwanzira also revealed that $40m from the fund was advanced to Treasury in 2012. These advancements have not been paid back either. No wonder Econet has complained in the past about the lack of accountability and transparency regarding the use of the funds going so far as to sue Potraz seeking clarity on USF.
The misuse of the funds, yes misuse, shows just how low the government prioritises getting all Zimbabweans connected. It’s not as simple as it sounds here but it’s fair to conclude that the USF was established under false pretenses. The funds are being used for everything but telecommunications expansion.
Just let it sink in that the government used USF funds to pay for Telecel acquisition.
We are not here to argue whether the Vice President had the authority to order POTRAZ to loan Zifa funds but rather to discuss if we need more stringent rules and requirements regarding the accountability for USF. Let it be used for the purpose it was established.
Do let us know what you think about all this in the comments below.
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