By Mugove Tafirenyika
HARARE – Suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere is embroiled in a messy $1 million scandal in which he allegedly inflated the purchase price of a radio Outside Broadcasting (OB) van from a Chinese firm.
Documents in possession of the Daily News show that sometime last year, the State broadcaster entered into an agreement with China National Instruments Imports and Exports Corporation (Instrimpex) for the purchase of the OB Van worth $100 000 and $200 000 on the real market.
The figure was, however, allegedly inflated to $1 050 000 by Muchechetere in alleged connivance with Instrimpex officials.
It is not clear if the cash-strapped ZBC forked out the whole cash for the van but information at hand shows the ZBC, through a deal with a local bank, paid $100 000 and the van was delivered.
Officials at ZBC now fear that either the balance was paid to the Chinese company and the difference of $900 000 was shared between Muchechetere and Instrimpex officials or the broadcaster now owes Instrimpex the huge amount for a van that costs far less.
The Daily News can reveal the ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services has since written to the new ZBC management to ask the Chinese company to prepare a proper invoice to verify how a van worth between $100 000 and $200 000 could be charged over $1 million.
All this was done without the knowledge of the board and without going to tender.
Muchechetere is believed to have nicodemously sneaked out to China where the deal to inflate figures was sealed and a fake $1 050 000 invoice was generated on June 28, 2013 and presented to the State broadcaster as the cost of the van.
This is notwithstanding the fact that as CEO, Muchechetere was only authorised to approve purchases not exceeding $50 000, while the ZBC board approved purchases of up to $300 000, with any purchase above that requiring the approval of the State Procurement Board.
Muchechetere had indicated in a June 1, 2013 executive meeting that $450 000 was enough to purchase the OB van, a new cargo van and a new crew bus but he single-handedly travelled to China secure a deal to buy the OB van only for more than $1 million.
Minutes of the meeting, attended by Muchechetere, Tazzen Mandizvidza, the general manager News and Current Affairs; Allan Gweshe, the general manager Programming and Elliot Kasu, general manager Finance and Administration; show that the amount from BancABC was supposed to be enough for the purchase and shipment of the equipment into the country.
“The GCEO (group CEO) proposed to the meeting that since a Television Outside Broadcasting Van had already been acquired from China, the BancABC-ZBC contract meant to purchase a Television OB van should now be reviewed and instead be used to secure a new Radio OB Van, a new Cargo Van and a new Crew Bus,” the minutes read.
“He said the funding is adequate to meet the purchase of the three items.”
According to documents, ZBC had entered into an agreement with BancABC in December 2011 wherein the bank agreed to refurbish ZBC’s OB van to the tune of $495 595 in exchange for advertising airtime.
The State broadcaster, however, later decided the money from the BancABC agreement be channelled towards the purchase of the OB radio, crew bus and cargo van since they had already acquired an OB van for television.
Muchechetere went on to request that BancABC release the amount in a July 2, 2013 correspondence to the bank, which the financial institution duly did on October 28, 2013.
“According to the auxiliary agreement signed in China on 21 June 2013, a deposit of $100 000 is required to allow its shipping to Zimbabwe,” Muchechetere said.
“We kindly request that you release the $100 000 required for the deposit and the subsequent instalments of deposit in terms of the agreement.”
Efforts to obtain comment from Muchechetere were fruitless yesterday as his mobile was unreachable.
The ZBC CEO, who is currently on forced leave over obscene salaries paid to the broadcasters’ management and general mismanagement, was pampering himself with a hefty package amounting to over $40 000 a month, including a monthly salary of $27 000, as workers wallowed in poverty.
In December last year, government revealed the ZBC boss enjoyed outrageous perks which included home entertainment of $3 000, housing allowance of $3 000, $2 500 for his security, unlimited fuel allowance and wages for his maid, among other benefits. Daily News