ZBC bosses in housing scam

Happison Muchechetere

SUSPENDED ZBC chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere and three senior managers are embroiled in a multi-million dollar double dipping housing scandal that cost the corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars in what sources say was a looting spree over the past four years.

The managers unprocedurally set up a housing scheme with mortgage guarantees from CBZ Building Society supported by $1,3million deposited by ZBC in an investment account. And though the scheme was approved by then board chairman, Cuthbert Dube on May 5, 2010, it was done without the knowledge or approval of the Board.

The funds deposited by the ZBC management exceeded the threshold allowed for execution by the corporation’s staff without the approval of the Board.

The agreement for the controversial housing scheme was illegally signed by general manager finance, Elliot Kasu, who has no power to authorise such contracts.

The ZBC Purchasing Policy says the CEO is empowered to authorise financial transactions of up to $50,000 without Board approval while from $50,000 to $300,000, the purchase would have to go through the State Procurement Board.

Under the scheme, Muchechetere was awarded $250,000, while Kasu, Allan Chiweshe (general manager radio programming) and Tazzen Mandizvidza (general manager news and current affairs) all got $200,000 apiece translating to $850,000 to buy houses in Harare’s northern suburbs.

The quartet’s contracts, under ‘Housing’ provided for the service of the mortgages at CBZ by ZBC at 100 percent for Muchechetere, who did not have an account with the bank and thus used the ZBC account to pay off his mortgage, and 50 percent apiece for Kasu, Chiweshe and Mandizvidza who had accounts with the bank from which deductions towards servicing the mortgage were made.

Despite purchasing plush properties with ZBC funds, the four continued drawing monthly executive housing allowances that stood at $3,500 for  Muchechetere and $2,500 for Kasu, Chiweshe and Mandizvidza giving a cumulative $1,808,666 over the past four years.

The allowances were only stopped after the intervention of the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services in November that culminated in the dissolution of the entire ZBC board, suspension of Muchechetere and Kasu, and the payment of workers’ outstanding salaries.

The quartet is also under fire for their hypocrisy in that throughout the seven-month period when their subordinates went without salaries, at times getting as little as $40 for bus fare, Muchechetere and his three GMs pretended to freeze their salaries while clandestinely raking in thousands of dollars every month in allowances.

Records show Muchechetere religiously got his $9,300 every month broken down as $3,500 housing allowance, $2,400 for security, $3,000 entertainment allowance, and $400 for domestic workers while the three GMs were also paid their $5,300 in allowances broken down as $2,500 for housing and $2,400 for security without fail.

Bishop Trevor Manhanga, who sat on the Board, confirmed that the housing scheme was never brought to the board’s attention as the chairman, Dube, had made it clear that the issue of conditions of service for the CEO was his business.

“That was never brought to the Board, and the Board turned down a budget for 2013 which included luxury vehicles for the management. The decision regarding conditions of service for the guys was the chairman’s business,” he said.

Another Board member, who preferred anonymity, said the 2013 Budget included a new Mercedes Benz S350 and Land Cruiser for the CEO even though his current fleet was fairly new.

Efforts to get comment from Muchechetere were unsuccessful as his phones went unanswered last night.

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