We have been crying for it and it’s here now: accountability and transparency from parastatals. Well, at least one parastatal has heeded the call and that’s progress in the right direction.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) held its very first annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday. At that meeting they revealed a growth in revenue and a reduction in operating expenditure.
It is the first time that POTRAZ has released such figures. Before we look at the figures let’s first quickly look at where that revenue comes from.
POTRAZ is responsible for licensing and regulatory functions in respect of postal and telecommunication systems and services in Zimbabwe. Their revenue therefore comes from licence fees mostly.
They also are responsible for the administration of the Universal Services Fund (USF,) a pool set up in 2000 which applies a levy to all licensed operators with the objective of spreading network rollout in neglected areas.
You may have heard about the USF when Econet sued POTRAZ, seeking an order to compel POTRAZ to disclose information on the fund. It was in January 2016 and Econet revealed at that time that they had contributed over $59 million to the fund.
Econet may no longer need to go to the courts to get that information anymore. POTRAZ promises to be more transparent going forward.
Now on to the figures:
Revenue for the nine months to September 2017 was $22.7 million. This was higher than the budgeted revenue of $20.8 million.
Operating expenditure was at $12.8 million, way below the budgeted $19.8 million.
The detailed report is yet to be released so we will only know what measures were taken to reduce expenditure in the period.
Closing retained income, which is just accumulated net income at a particular point of time, was at $83.8 million. This was lower than the budgeted figure of $101.8 million. This is curious seeing as that revenue for the period was higher and expenditure was lower than budgeted and yet retained income is much lower.
How? We will get a clearer picture when the full report is released. It will likely be because capital expenditure increased in the period. Which is what we want to hear.
Budgeted revenue was $10.8 million but actual revenue was higher at $11.5 million.
Actual expenditure figures at $459K were lower than the projected $2.2 million.
The retained income at $26.1 million was much higher than the budgeted $13.6 million.
This again will become clearer when we get the full report but it implies that there was a scale back in capital expenditure in the period.
In the past POTRAZ has used the USF to set up base stations in the rural areas and also to set up community information centres among other projects. The figures suggest less of this was done in the nine months to September.
So there you have it. POTRAZ held it’s very first AGM since its inception in 2001. As with all progress, once we have had a taste of it we expect it to keep coming. This should be the start of a culture of transparency and not a once off thing. Conversations we had with POTRAZ indicate that there really has been a shift and we are to expect more of this accountability and transparency.