Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter—
STATE-owned mobile network operator, NetOne could have lost millions of dollars through dubious procurement of hardware and software materials, highly-placed sources have said.The firm might have been prejudiced in the procurement of base station towers and software for its mobile money transfer platform, One Wallet.
For One Wallet, the firm reportedly made an advance payment of about $600 000 to the supplier, yet it only makes a profit of about $1 000 per month. The anomalies were raised by newly-appointed chief finance officer Mrs Sibusisiwe Ndlovu, who is reportedly now under fire from management for raising the issue during a board meeting in December last year.
NetOne board chairperson Mr Alex Marufu confirmed the irregularities, saying investigations were underway. “The organisation has a new CFO in place, and she has a number of areas where she has indicated that she is unsure if proper procedures were followed,” said Mr Marufu.
“This does not in any way suggest a misappropriation of funds, but has highlighted to the board areas that we need to take a closer look at.
“The board is therefore in the process of investigating these areas. The board is fully supportive of the CFO and the entire management team will continue to work hard to ensure that the positive results that are starting to come out of NetOne are not short-term gains but will result in long-term sustainability and profitability.”
Sources said Mrs Ndlovu had picked a number of anomalies. “Some of the anomalies picked and presented to the board were shocking invoices of fuel from Redan Petroleum which NetOne has been paying on invoice basis and not necessarily on consumption,” said a source.
“For instance, Redan sent an invoice for $250 000 for fuel but the new lady demanded a reconciliation exercise before paying and it was discovered that the institution only owed $90 000, yet she had been instructed by her seniors to pay $250 000. Indications are that NetOne lost millions of dollars to dubious payments.”
The source said the parastatal had also paid over $600 000 to the supplier of One Wallet when the mobile phone operator only generated less than $1 000 profits per month. “Because of these discoveries, NetOne chief executive officer Mr Reward Kangai is now recommending to the board not to approve the finance director’s permanent appointment,” said the source.
“He is claiming that she can’t be employed on full time basis because she went on maternity leave during the first three months of her employment.
“However, board members hit the roof in protest, arguing that her work performance was more convincing than the negative dossier that Kangai wanted to present to the board.
“Mr Kangai is now going on some political bidding to protect himself because the revelations have exposed him. He has even gone to the Office of the President and Cabinet trying to cover his back.”
Contacted for comment on the developments at NetOne, Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said his ministry was in the process of restructuring the institution.
“There are a lot of things that are wrong at NetOne that the board, with the support of the Ministry, is trying to clean up of which the management restructuring that has taken place there is part of the clean up to bring efficiency,” he said.
“Remember, Government has invested just too much money not to receive a dividend from NetOne. We have told the board that they have to drive the business hard to ensure that we never have to put Government in an embarrassing situation where it borrows $30 million from a private mobile operator when it has invested nearly a billion dollars in its own operator.
“But let me make this clear, I am not aware of the specifics of the matters you have raised, so you may need to speak to the board chairperson and the managing director for finer details.” Efforts to get a comment from Mr Kangai were fruitless.