Army, police fail to pay $1,2m NetOne debt

HARARE - The army and the police are reportedly failing to pay for services rendered by mobile network provider, NetOne, according to documents at hand.

The army, which recently splashed millions on top-of-the-range vehicles, is failing to settle a $1 million debt, while the police owed the first cellular network operator in Zimbabwe close to $200 000 as of December 2015, according to a damning NetOne audit report.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated the ministries of Defence and Home Affairs, which covers the police, $340,5 million and $364,3 million respectively in the 2017 National Budget.

According to the audit report, the Defence ministry owes NetOne $1 093 134,41 while police has a debt of $196 591,39.

Despite the fact that debtors are failing to pay, the auditors “noted that 25 out of the 35 debt balances kept growing over the years without termination of services as stated” in the company’s credit policy.

In their recommendations, the external auditors said that NetOne should consider taking legal action against defaulters or writing off the debts.

“Credit policies and procedures for credit control must be adhered to so as to monitor customer debts and timeously take corrective action on defaulting customers...

NetOne should explore ways to recover debts where there are chances of recovery. NetOne should consider writing off those debts where there are no chances of recovery,” reads the audit report.

Recently, the Daily News reported that government officials have blown millions of dollars on phones and fuel, something that forced authorities to put a belated cap on expenditure.

Zimbabwe is saddled by huge internal and external debt running into billions of dollars and the country is dismally failing to pay its creditors.

Yet this, according to government, has not deterred ministers, permanent secretaries, directors and their deputies from helping themselves to huge quantities of fuel and other perks that come with their lofty positions.

This is despite the fact that, currently, government is failing to pay salaries on time and service its debt which is increasing by the day.

It was reported that permanent secretaries’ mobile phone allocations are now pegged at $150 per month, while those of directors are pegged at $100 per month; figures that many feel are still way too high considering the state of the economy.

According to the treasury circular number 6 of 2016, fixed telephone services exceeded budget and now the broke government is seeking a rationalisation of non-priority expenditure.

“Consumption of fixed telephone services continues to exceed budgeted expenditures.

“This is evidenced by an annual bill of $34,9 million in 2015 against an appropriation of $13,1 million.

“In order to avoid the continued accumulation of arrears, alignment of consumption with budgeted capacity becomes inescapable,” read part of the circular.

So rife is the abuse of telephones at government departments that tens of millions of dollars were lost since 2009 and now government line ministries have been ordered “to procure and install Private Branch Exchange (PABX) systems which have in-built functionalities that control usage through call monitoring and call restriction levels.

“The deadline for this requirement is June 30, 2016”.

And as the economic woes bite harder, the bloated government has finally taken heed of calls from opposition parties to streamline but there are also hushed protests from officials for the Office of the President to be more transparent.

The failure to pay the NetOne bill by the army comes as it purchased new vehicles for army lieutenant-colonels in June at a time the Public Service Commission is struggling to pay its 550 000-strong workforce, resulting in the staggering of salaries.

In July last year, government acquired 633 vehicles, which included all-terrain troop-carrying trucks, water cannons, buses and equipment, mostly used by the military and police, worth an estimated $50 million from India’s Ashok Leyland.

Since the 2013 general elections, the government has been buying military equipment as it secretly bolsters its instruments of repression to combat any possible Arab Spring-style uprising due to the explosive socio-economic situation in the country.

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