THE state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) made a loss of US$7 million between 2009 and 2010 and was owed US$6 million by various government ministries, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General Mildred Chiri has revealed.
Chiri noted this in a recently released report on state enterprises and parastatals for the financial year ended December 31, 2012.
In the report, ZBC is said to have made losses of US$3 953 907 in 2009 and US$3 121 001 in 2010 while the corporation was in arrears in statutory payments of US$3 259 583 up from US$605 527 (2009), including value-added tax obligations.
In addition to the losses, Chiri noted that government ministries owed ZBC US$3,143 million constituting 48,92% of total debt owed to it as of December 31, 2010.
However, in the same report, ZBC management said the debt had escalated to US$6 361 800 and there was doubt it could be recovered.
The debt accrued after government departments failed to pay for services rendered by ZBC.
The broadcaster has often come under criticism for giving generous coverage to Zanu PF events without payment.
Lately ZBC has come under strident criticism for its extensive coverage of First lady Grace Mugabe’s “Meet the People Tour” around the country. Grace’s addresses were broadcast in full and repeated by ZBC-TV, although it is highly unlikely there was any payment.
ZBC defended the coverage saying “the national broadcaster has a duty to bring news to the nation wherever it happens, which is exactly what ZBC has been doing”.
ZBC editor-in-chief Tazzen Mandizvidza said the national broadcaster had no apology to make for the coverage, adding since the launch of her political career in Chinhoyi on October 2 every media house whether public or privately-owned has been awash with Grace’s stories.
On funds owed ZBC by various ministries, Chiri advised the broadcaster to have an agreement with the various ministries on responsibility in terms of payment for coverage of national events.
Chiri also noted ZBC was funding employment costs averaging US$700 000 per month against average cash inflows of US$600 000 through an overdraft facility.
“The corporation’s inability to offer services in a sustainable manner is compounded by the fact that its cash-generating ability is significantly affected by the failure of major debtors to service their debts,” she noted.
Chiri said due to the losses the sustainability of services offered by ZBC may be threatened and service delivery compromised.
She suggested that the corporation comes up with a “turnaround strategy that ensures that it breaks even and also improves on debt management”.