The Auditor General in 2016 exposed ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira flaunted governance rules and got a $195 000 loan to purchase a vehicle from the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) without Government approval.
The report also revealed that Mandiwanzira’s ministry got loans amounting to $10 million from Potraz for its acquisition of a controlling stake in Telecel Zimbabwe. The loan was advanced with no Treasury approval.
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Here’s an excerpt of the report:
The Ministry (of ICT, Postal and Courier Services) got loans amounting to $10 million, $194 564 and $95 000 from POTRAZ for the acquisition of government’s shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe and purchasing of the Minister and Deputy Minister’s (Win Mlambo) vehicle respectively, without Treasury concurrence. These amounts were still outstanding as at the time the audit was concluded.
The ministry did not provide documentary evidence to show that they were given treasury authority to borrow from state owned enterprises. Since the amount of $58 888 relates to appropriation expenses by the ministry, the expenditure should be accounted for in the 2015 financial year.
In addition, the ministry did not provide documentary evidence on how it intends to account for the $10 289 564 for the purchase of shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe and the purchase of the Minister and Deputy Minister’s vehicles.
Treasury approval aside, POTRAZ funding the acquisition of a mobile operator strongly calls into question the neutrality of the telecoms regulator and their ability to regulate the sector. It is also important to highlight that on becoming the ICT minister, one of Mandiwanzira’s earliest moves was to fire the whole POTRAZ board and appoint new members.
One would argue that using funds contributed by the wider industry in telecoms fees, to help a government buy a competitor in that same industry is not fair. And the fact that how the Ministry got the $10 million was a mystery until this Auditor General’s report speaks of the lack of transparency at both the ministry and POTRAZ.