Government owes ZBH $6.2 million

HARARE - Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) claim their operations have been seriously hamstrung by the government’s failure to settle $6.2 million dollars owed to the national broadcaster.

ZBH Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Happison Muchechetere told the Daily News that not only has the government failed to pay grants to the national broadcaster but they also owe ZBH.

Muchechetere also revealed to the Daily News that as a state broadcaster they are supposed to be receiving grants but are in fact owed by the state.

“You say we are in debt for over $1 million but that is not too much money”, said the ZBH boss.

“Do you know that government owes us over $6.2 million? This is for work done for them. They tell us to go and cover something and we charge them but they don’t pay.”

ZBH is currently in trouble with the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) for failing to settle $700 000 arrears in employees’ pension contributions since 2009.

They also owe the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) over $ 600 000 in royalties’ arrears, a figure they have vowed to challenge in court.

“If government pays up do you think we will care about the Zimura $600 000 or the NSSA $700 000? We have the money but government hasn’t paid.

“We are trying to recover the money but you know government wholly owns us and that’s the irony of the whole matter.

“If we were Zesa or a telephone company we would switch them off or but we don’t have those powers,” he said.

Muchechetere said since they are owned by government they cannot refuse to cover some of the events, even if it means forking the money from their own coffers.

“We are still carrying out their work. Recently we were in Victoria Falls; calculate how much it costs for a crew to go there and also their accommodation. The uplink itself to the satellite costs us $22 000 to hire it from South Africa because we don’t have it here.

“This is money ZBC is pumping out to do a government job. We don’t even charge them for news but when there are specific jobs that demand payment upfront, they have to pay. But the reality is they don’t.”

The ZBH boss said it is funny that some departments hide behind government and the president yet the president’s office pays.

“Some government departments pay for example the president’s department the army and prisons, but other departments fail to pay for the jobs we do for them.

“The Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) right now owes us about $500 000 that is why we have switched them off. Government is so intransigent they do not want to pay yet they are the ones who come up and say ZBC is broke,” he said.

ZBH is known for its old fashioned equipment which is so out-dated that it is possible that spare parts for the equipment are no longer found anywhere in the world.

“If people honour their credits with us then definitely ZBC will be afloat and we will be able to update our equipment. We are not asking them to give us grants, they stopped giving us grants a long time ago and we just want them to pay.

“At least the previous government used to pay and give us grants but ever since the inclusive government was formed nothing has been paid.

“You end up thinking people are misgoverning but it’s simple, we are owed money. If they pay definitely you will see everything run smoothly; there will be no pay delays,” he said.

Government is currently cash strapped and recently finance minister Tendai Biti announced a $3.8 billion national budget which has been described by many as paltry.

Government owes parastatals, city councils, Zesa and other players about $205 million while the external debt currently stands at $10.7 billion.

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