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Sedco collapse feared

Lucia Makamure/Loughty Dube

THERE are strong fears that the Small Enterprises Development Corporation (Sedco) could collapse under the weight of mismanagement, shortage

of manpower and lack of funds, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.

Since the beginning of this year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has not released any funds to the lending institution leading to an exodus of management staff.

Sedco last disbursed funds a year ago in Mutoko when Claude Maredza was still general manager.

The corporation caught media attention last year in October after Maredza was suspended on allegations of exceeding board cash limits and misuse of fuel allocations.

He was later exonerated after an internal audit undertaken by the then finance and administration manager, Compasion Hondonga, cleared him of wrong-doing.

Earlier this year Maredza’s driver Tendai Makashu was sacked while in police custody facing fraud allegations. Although he was later acquitted, Sedco has not paid him terminal benefits. Sedco abolished his post.

A source who refused to be named for fear of reprisals told the Independent that there was gross mismanagement of funds at Sedco.

“The $15 million (revalued) which Maredza raised last year from the National Social Security Authority was not disbursed to the organisations that were supposed to benefit,” the source said.

“Instead it was used to buy fuel for personal use and cellphone allowances for management,” the source said.

The source said some Sedco executives used to take fuel in drums to their homes and farms.

The company’s acting general manager Stewart Murambanhaka initially refused to comment on the allegations, referring all questions to board chairman, Owen Tshabangu.

Yesterday Marambanhaka said executives at Sedco were allocated fuel.

“The fuel in question was my monthly allocation. Each manager has a monthly allocation,” he said.

“No such thing as taking drums of fuel to my farm ever happened. The fuel drivers took to my farm in Mazowe was bought from Noczim and I have the papers to prove it.”

Marambanhaka has been acting general manager since Maredza left last year.

The Sedco head office is also operating without a substantive risk manager, internal auditor or a receptionist.

When the Independent made inquires at the headquarters the person who answered the phone said the company did not have an internal auditor or risk manager.

The Harare and Gweru branches have been operating without managers for some time.

Masvingo and Bulawayo branches have both lost two managerial personnel and Gweru and Mutare have lost one each. The main reason for the exodus has been low salaries.

In October the company had its telephone lines cut for three weeks over unpaid bills.

An insider revealed that this week the board met and discussed issues that included the Mercedes Benz E240 that the company bought for Maredza and is now being used by Marambanhaka.

Some board members wanted the vehicle sold.

Small and Medium Enterprises Development minister, Sithembiso Nyoni, on Wednesday said she was not aware of what has been happening at Sedco.

“I haven’t heard anything concerning Sedco,” Nyoni said.

“The board has not reported anything to me so I cannot say anything. Talk to the chairman.”

Tshabangu, the Sedco chairman, said he was surprised at how issues that are supposed to be internal were out in the open.

“It is not true that there are branches that are operating without managers. The Gweru branch manager resigned and the Bulawayo manager is currently working in the Harare office,” Tshabangu said, adding: “We now have an internal auditor but I am not sure about the risk manager.”

“Things have been difficult for Sedco and we had some staff member leaving because we were short of funds.”

Tshabangu said Sedco received significant funding from the national budget.

“I am sure things are going to be better.”

Meanwhile, Sedco employees have written to Vice-President Joice Mujuru expressing concern over deteriorating conditions at the parastatal.

In their letter to Mujuru, the employees said 26 out of a total of 77 of their colleagues left the parastatal this year alone due to poor working conditions.

“Workers have been and continue to be frustrated by the deplorable or humiliating salaries such that between January and November 2006 more than 26 employees have resigned including some long-serving members.

“It is our view that management is deliberately frustrating workers so that they leave the corporation with nothing after loyally serving the corporation for a long time,” reads the letter sent to Mujuru who is also the focal person for parastatals in government.

In their letter to Mujuru, the workers allege that poor salaries at the organisation have forced senior management to leave the organisation while those still in employment are being frustrated by inefficient management.

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