GOVERNMENT could have been prejudiced of thousands of dollars after it has emerged that most of the equipment which was budgeted for during the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (Impi) programme was not acquired while some panelists were not paid their outreach allowances.
By Elias Mambo
This comes at a time the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is reportedly investigating how the US$1,6 million, which was released by Treasury to fund Impi was used.
Documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent show that government released US$1,6 million for the programme for the purchase of equipment and payment of salaries and allowances for panelists.
The programme ran for four months from March to June 2014 and the Impi chairperson, Geoffrey Nyarota, was paid US$20 000 at US$5 000 per month. Nyarota’s deputy Thembe Khumalo went home with US$16 000, while the 25-member panel which was paid US$300 per sitting went home with US$157 500.
Zacc is investigating whether off-roader vehicles, which are said to have been purchased for the programme, are all on the ministry of Information’s books.
Sources who were part of the 25-member Impi panel said they are still owed sitting allowances for regional tours they undertook.
“We went to Tanzania, others to Zambia and Kenya, but we have not been paid up to now despite Treasury having released the funds,” the source said.
Documents, however, show that a total of US$55 170 was released by Treasury for the regional tours. US$8 370 was allocated for allowances, US$10 800 (hotel bills) and US$36 000 (airfares).
In an interview with this paper, Nyarota said it could be possible that some panel members were not paid their sitting allowances.
“When we were preparing for regional tours, I raised budgetary issues with the (then information) minister (Jonathan Moyo) because I knew there was no money,” Nyarota said.
“The minister said my fears were misplaced because the Impi budget had been revised upwards to US$2,5 million but it is shocking that up to now some people are not yet paid.
“It may be possible that some people were not paid their allowances. It is also possible that some things were not bought. As the chairperson the only money I handled was my salary. Capital expenditure was handled directly by the ministry,” he said.
Nyarota also said he had to struggle to raise US$25 000 to print 1 500 copies of the report because the budgeted US$40 000 could not be accounted for and no one was willing to tell him where that money went to.
“I had to fundraise US$25 000 with the help of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) so that the report could be printed yet on the budget US$40 000 was set aside for that task.”
Investigations also revealed that some equipment, which was budgeted for, such as digital cameras, computers, laptops as well as mobile cellphones, was not bought.
The budget shows that US$14 950 was budgeted for cellphones, US$2 000 for two digital cameras and US$72 000 for 12 video cameras.
“Those things were not bought. Can you say this cellphone costs US$500 as we were told?” asked one of the panel members who had a Samsung S4 cellphone.
Impi was formed in 2014 by the ministry of information under Moyo to assess the state of the media sector in the country.
The panel included some editors from both public and private media, as well as marketing and advertising representatives, information and communications technology experts, and civil society members among other professionals.