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NetOne bosses owe firm $11m

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NetOne bosses owe firm $11m NetOne board chairman Mr Alex Marufu (centre) addresses a Press briefing in Harare yesterday. He is flanked by board member Mr Shepherd Tsomondo (left) and acting chief executive officer Mr Brian Mutandiro. -- Picture by Justin Mutenda
NetOne board chairman Mr Alex Marufu (centre) addresses a Press briefing in Harare yesterday. He is flanked by board member Mr Shepherd Tsomondo (left) and acting chief executive officer Mr Brian Mutandiro. -- Picture by Justin Mutenda

NetOne board chairman Mr Alex Marufu (centre) addresses a Press briefing in Harare yesterday. He is flanked by board member Mr Shepherd Tsomondo (left) and acting chief executive officer Mr Brian Mutandiro. — Picture by Justin Mutenda

Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
MAGGOTS continue crawling from the NetOne can of worms amid revelations that the former NetOne management led by suspended chief executive officer Mr Reward Kangai owned Firstel Cellular that owes the Government-owned mobile operator over $11 million.

Reports say Firstel Cellular was also used as a conduit to siphon money from NetOne.

This comes amid reports that two more senior officials linked to the scam face the chop as investigations gather momentum.

It emerged that several bank accounts were being operated in the name of NetOne with two signatories only but without knowledge of the board.

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The two companies entered into a service provider agreement in which Firstel was mandated to find clients for NetOne contract lines and then remit the money collected from the subscribers to the service provider, less its commission.

Said Mr Marufu: “We have got a huge debtors’ book. The reason for that huge debtors’ book, as a board we are not confident that we followed what needed to be followed in order to collect the debt that is there. We are doing this going back to 2009, the period of dollarisation because a large part of our debtors actually date back to 2009.

“I must point out an area of concern. A large part of our debtors actually sits with one company and that company is actually owned by the previous management team in their individual capacities. I have a problem with it from a corporate governance perspective, which is why the board is coming and looking at this and say this possibly cannot be right. The amount that we are owed is as a result of management’s ownership in a company called Firstel.”

Mr Marufu said Firstel Cellular owed NetOne about $11 million.

Mr Marufu said they expected the forensic audit to be carried out within two months saying the Auditor-General’s Office would lead the process.

He said they also picked up information that the previous management was operating dubious bank accounts using the NetOne name.

“In the last few weeks, it has come to the attention of the board that several bank accounts were being operated in the name of NetOne with two signatories but without the knowledge of the board. The board will be adding this to the list of areas to be investigated,” said Mr Marufu.

He also said the auditors’ terms of reference would focus on internal controls, payment system, collection of debts, airtime distribution, payment of salaries and allowances, acquisition and management of base station sites as well as suppliers of interest from January 2010 to December 2015.

“We want to review transactions with a number of entities for evidence of fraud or irregularities. For instance, there is a company called Bopela; we understand it’s owned by a gentleman called Mr Agrippa Masiyakurima. Matters of interest with respect to this company include a deal that was signed possibly a year ago with this company to sell NetOne simcards to 500 000 Zanu-PF youths for which $80 000 was paid in advance as delivery of the service.

“Of the 500 000 cards which were committed, the actual number that was delivered was less than 3 000. This obviously rang alarm bells in the minds of the board. Of the 3 000 that were signed for, they were signed as part of a weekend blitz that was launched by NetOne who went across the road and signed up a number of people. This is obviously an area of concern for us.

“We also have some concerns about base stations that are being delivered by the same company called Bopela. I have not seen as an individual nor any members of the board seen any evidence of this contract having gone to tender. So we are very concerned about this. We are not only looking at this company. We are also looking at a company called Masimba Holdings, which is doing some work in terms of delivery of base stations,” said Mr Marufu.

He said they were also investigating fuel suppliers such as Puma Energy and Redan as well as international service providers such as Gemalto, Nokia Siemens Network, Convergys and Technotree.

He said some stakeholders were revealing some of the illicit dealings that were going on at the parastatal.

“Because of the additional information that is coming, it’s necessary for us to send some more people on leave. There might be one or two people that we might have to send on leave. We are still going through the internal discussions to see if it is actually absolutely necessary for us to send additional people on leave. But we will continue to do that,” said Mr Marufu.

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