NetOne bosses used Firstel as conduit to siphon $11m

Harare Bureau
MAGGOTS continue to crawl from the NetOne can of worms amid revelations that former NetOne management led by suspended chief executive officer, Reward Kangai, owned Firstel Cellular that owes the government-owned mobile operator over $11 million.

Reports say Firstel Cellular was also used as a conduit to siphon money from NetOne.

This comes amid reports that two more senior officials linked to the scam face the chop as investigations gather momentum.

It emerged that several bank accounts were being operated in the name of NetOne with two signatories only but without knowledge of the board. NetOne board chairperson, Alex Marufu, yesterday said Firstel Cellular, the company that the former management owned in their individual capacities was the mobile operator’s biggest debtor.

The two companies entered into a service provider agreement in which Firstel was mandated to find clients for NetOne contract lines and then remit the money collected from the subscribers to the service provider, less its commission.

Said Marufu: “We have got a huge debtors’ book. The reason for that huge debtors’ book, as a board we aren’t confident that we followed what needed to be followed in order to collect the debt that is there. We are doing this going back to 2009, the period of dollarisation because a large part of our debtors actually date back to 2009.

“I must point out an area of concern. A large part of our debtors actually sits with one company and that company is actually owned by the previous management team in their individual capacities. I’ve a problem with it from a corporate governance perspective, which is why the board is coming and looking at this and say this possibly can’t be right. The amount that we’re owed is as a result of management’s ownership in a company called Firstel.”

Marufu said Firstel Cellular owed NetOne about $11 million. He said they expected the forensic audit to be carried out within two months saying the Auditor-General’s Office would lead the process. He said they also picked information that the previous management was operating dubious bank accounts using the NetOne name. “In the last few weeks, it has come to the attention of the board that several bank accounts were being operated in the name of NetOne with two signatories but without the knowledge of the board. The board will be adding this to the list of areas to be investigated,” said Marufu.

He also said the auditors’ terms of reference would focus on internal controls, payment system, collection of debts, airtime distribution, payment of salaries and allowances, acquisition and management of base station sites as well as suppliers of interest from January 2010 to December 2015.

“We want to review transactions with a number of entities for evidence of fraud or irregularities. For instance there is a company called Bopela, we understand it’s owned by a gentleman called Agrippa Masiyakurima. Matters of interest with respect to this company include a deal that was signed possibly a year ago with this company to sell NetOne simcards to 500,000 Zanu-PF youths for which $80,000 was paid in advance as delivery of the service.

“Of the 500,000 cards which were committed, the actual number that was delivered was less than 3,000. This obviously rang alarm bells in the minds of the board. Of the 3,000 that were signed, they were signed as part of a weekend blitz that was launched by NetOne who went across the road and signed up a number of people. This is obviously an area of concern for us.

“We also have some concerns about base stations that are being delivered by the same company called Bopela. I’ve not seen as an individual nor any members of the board seen any evidence of this contract having gone to tender. So we are very concerned about this. We aren’t only looking at this company. We are also looking at a company called Masimba Holdings, which is doing some work in terms of delivery of base stations,” said Marufu.

He said they were also investigating fuel suppliers such as Puma Energy and Redan as well as international service providers such as Gemalto, Nokia Siemens Network, Convergys and Technotree. He said some stakeholders were revealing some of the illicit dealings that were going on at the parastatal.

“Because of the additional information that is coming, it’s necessary for us to send some more people on leave. There might be one or two people that we might have to send on leave. We are still going through the internal discussions to see if it is actually absolutely necessary for us to send additional people on leave. But we will continue to do that,” said Marufu.

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  • Abel Ntakana

    The fish starts to rot from the head. Also investigate Super Mandiwanzira for his well publicised private dealings with Bopelo. Most probably he is the one who authorised the recruitment of Bopelo without going to tender. Chronicle, in the past you were known for your sharp investigative journalism which exposed a lot of scandals in government. Please prove you still have those skills. Nanso indaba majaha lamantombazana akoNtuthu, kaliyihlaziye sibone.

    • zenzo

      THis is a report from the Herald. “From Harare Correspondent”

  • blarazonke

    I like the Marufus, esp Dr Grace. Whn they go for jugular, you are a gonner. Kangai will wish he belonged to the right faction. Funny it is that Supa belongs to Lacoste when his married to Grace’s sister. He might need to watch his back very very carefully after that whtsup fracas.

  • jahman

    So this is what the Chimurenga was all about. Getting black people into power so they can abuse the people. Cry the beloved country