Sikhulekelani Moyo, Business Reporter
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has re-assigned the management of its real estate portfolio to area managers amid reports the parastatal has been losing an estimated $22 million annually allegedly through corruption by space barons.
NRZ real estate business portfolio is responsible for overseeing the parastatal’s assets that include commercial land and farms, office accommodation, residential houses (employees and private tenants), warehouses and commercial developments at stations and sidings as well as joint venture developments on railway reserves.
NRZ acting general manager, Mrs Respina Zinyanduko said in line with the ongoing restructuring programme, the entity’s real estate department has been re-designed to address several allegations of corruption and malpractice that had manifested over years.
“Worth noting is that the real estate department has been rocked by a number of corruption cases and was losing approximately $22 million annually to space barons who were leasing the organisation’s properties and premises throughout the country,” she said.
“After the discovery of the subletting ‘rot’ of its premises by space barons particularly in its Eastern Area of operation headquartered in Harare, a resolution was made to re-assign the real estate portfolio management to the NRZ area managers.”
“In addition, the standardisation of all lease agreements and zoning of land and application of uniform lease fees for each area were underway and a robust lease approval system that has checks and balances was developed to ensure transparency.
“Compilation of the asset register is ongoing and NRZ is in the process of recovering some of its land that had been illegally occupied and, in some instances, transferred.”
The exercise resulted in NRZ revenue collection in the real estate department increasing by more than 100 percent.
Mrs Zinyanduko said the NRZ procurement department was also another department that required overhaul.
“The NRZ audit department did a good job in unearthing some of the cases that were not handled properly, thus assisting the organisation to recover from errant suppliers while at the same time reviewing its structure in line with best practice,” she said.
The Government has directed NRZ to undertake a restructuring initiative aligning the organisational structure to business demands.
The restructuring initiative has also seen the parastatal reducing the number of directors from five to three while the organisational structure was reviewed to enhance operational efficiency.
Recently, the NRZ board and management after an extensive exercise came up with a robust structure envisaged to see maximum utilisation of staff and improved operational efficiency.
“We have unpacked some of the benefits derived from the restructuring exercise and allegations of disgruntlement and alleged nepotism that have been reported in some sections of the media are baseless and malicious meant to discredit one of the most successful restructuring exercises in the history of the organisation,” said Mrs Zinyanduko.
Asked to give an example of some of the departments where the restructuring initiative had been implemented, she said:
“One of the departments that were re-organised include the works yard department. This department comprised of more than 100 employees who are in different grades among them managers, artisans, assistants and manual workers.
“The departmental staff was spending most of its time idle as there was less activity due to lack of resources and in most instances use of contractors to undertake NRZ buildings repair and maintenance work.
“This resulted in management re-assigning most of the employees to other areas of need where the organisation would benefit from their service. The department is now manned by less than 20 people system-wide whose main responsibility is to do minor repairs and supervise contractors when undertaking repair and maintenance work.”
Another wing to do with borehole drilling and maintenance was also added to the works yard department.
This was after the realisation that some employees in the works yard department had expertise in borehole drilling and maintenance.
NRZ requires 80 boreholes system-wide to sustain its operations given erratic water supplies by some local authorities.
“A cost benefit analysis was done and it was realised that NRZ would benefit more if it acquires its own borehole drilling rig like what the Zimbabwe National Army has done. This will be used to meet NRZ requirements as well as used for commercial purposes,” she said.
As a result of the restructuring programme, some staff in the works yard department would also be redeployed to the NRZ Nalatale Mine in Shangani where NRZ intends to produce ballast stones for its mainline.
The application of the ballast stones was last done more than 15 years ago resulting in most of the NRZ tracks becoming deplorable.
“The application of ballast stones would require huge quantities of quarry stones and cannot be sustained using ballast procured from commercial quarry suppliers,” she said.
Mrs Zinyanduko said all the re-assignments were done on a lateral transfer basis and in some rare circumstances employees would be redeployed within the same department on a personal to holder basis.
The same also applied to the NRZ’s Central Mechanical Depot, which had more than 80 employees yet there were very few vehicles that were being repaired.
“This department (Central Mechanical Depot) staff complement was reduced to 27 system-wide and excess staff was redeployed to other areas of need.
“The whole exercise was carefully done with cost benefit analysis being done at each and every stage to ascertain the benefits that NRZ was deriving from each and every department.
“Employees in these two departments needed further training for them to discharge their duties efficiently.
“Most of the staff in the Central Mechanical Depot were not certified motor mechanics but rather fitters who only have the basic understanding of vehicle repairs and maintenance. The organisation has lined up training programmes for such employees,” she said.
The restructuring exercise at NRZ in some instances has faced some resistance as some people were used to benefiting from the organisation, siphoning funds using different avenues.