THE Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services was yesterday expected to write to suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief executive officer (CEO) Happison Muchechetere and finance manager, retired Brigadier Elliot Kasu, advising them of the termination of their salaries and benefits.
According to sources in the ministry, the duo would also be asked to pay back some of the money they received unprocedurally from the state broadcaster.
“The minister (Jonathan Moyo) will write today (yesterday) to Happison Muchechetere and Kasu terminating their salaries and benefits. He also wants the money they received paid back,” said a top ministry official.
“This is supposed to act as a deterrent to others. After this, it will be interesting to see how the Ministry of Health deals with the Premier Services Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) issue (where CEO Cuthbert Dube earns US$230 000 per month). This is likely to put the minister in a dilemma.”
Muchechetere and Kasu were suspended in November last year, while the ZBC board chaired by Dube was fired after it emerged the four top managers were earning salariesof between US$20 000 and US$27 000, while workers at the national broadcaster went unpaid for seven months. Muchechetere was earning a basic monthly salary of more than US$27 000 and allowances totalling US$12 000 per month, excluding fuel and other generous benefits.
Muchechetere, who became substantive chief executive in May 2009, has drawn salaries and allowances of about US$2,2 million to date.
The ZBC chief and his three senior managers are also embroiled in a multi-million-dollar double-dipping housing scandal.
The four unprocedurally set up a housing scheme with mortgage guarantees from CBZ Building Society supported by US$1,3 million deposited by ZBC in an investment account.
Although the scheme was approved by Dube on May 5 2010, it was allegedly done without the knowledge or approval of the board.
The agreement for the housing scheme was illegally signed by Kasu, it is alleged, who has no power to authorise such contracts.
In terms of the ZBC purchasing policy, the CEO is empowered to authorise financial transactions of up to US$50 000 without board approval, while transactions from US$50 000 to US$300 000 should go through the State Procurement Board. Under the scheme, Muchechetere was awarded US$250 000, while Kasu, Allan Chiweshe (general manager radio programmes) and Tazzen Mandizvidza (general manager news and current affairs) got US$200 000 apiece to buy houses in the northern suburbs.
Moyo told journalists on Wednesday there was a prima facie case for criminal prosecution of Dube and other senior managers for illegally approving hefty salaries for themselves at the insolvent state broadcaster.
“The law will be allowed to take its full course” once the full extent of Dube’s part in the rot at ZBC is uncovered by a forensic audit by an independent auditor to be selected by the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s office, said Moyo.
“Even before the commencement of the forensic audit, there is prima facie evidence of abuse of ZBC funds and assets by some members of the corporation’s management, some of which smacks of both gross negligence and outright criminal conduct,” Moyo said, describing the ZBC scandal as a “salarygate”.
“If it is proven after a forensic audit (that there was anything illegal) then there will be no hesitation in invoking the law,” he said in response to further questions, adding that “it does not matter who that person is”.