Happison Muchechetere guilty of abuse of ZBC funds

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Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) former chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere has been convicted of a slew of misconduct charges, including financial mismanagement and unlawful acquisition of an Outside Broadcasting Van following a disciplinary hearing by the public broadcaster.

Highly placed sources yesterday revealed that the disciplinary committee, chaired by former High Court judge Justice James Devittie, found Muchechetere guilty of several counts of misconduct. He is now awaiting sentence.

The tribunal hearing followed the release of a forensic audit report by KPMG Chartered Accountants, which revealed that Muchechetere reportedly profited to the tune of $3,5 million through abuse of office from January 1 2009 to December 31 2013.

The sources said the ZBC was represented by Advocate Linos Mazonde instructed by Mr Isaiah Mureriwa and Ms Rudo Magundani of Scanlen and Holderness while Muchechetere instructed Mr Gondayi Sithole of TJ Mawire and Associates.

Both lawyers were reluctant to give details on the matter when contacted for comment. Mr Mureriwa said he had no instructions to go public on the case. “Indeed, the hearing was done and completed,” said Mr Mureriwa.

Mr Sithole said: “I am not at liberty to comment on the matter. It is not yet for public consumption. The process is still going on.”

Last year the ZBC instituted disciplinary proceedings against Muchechetere and four members of his top management team on allegations of misconduct, which prejudiced the corporation of more than $7 million.

The four are general manager, finance, Elliot Kasu; acting CEO Allan Chiweshe; general manager, News and Current Affairs, Tazzen Mandizvidza; and head of finance, Ralph Nyambudzi.

Mandizvidza is now off the hook and has since been reinstated after he opted to co-operate in the investigations of the public broadcaster that lost revenue running into millions of dollars under Muchechetere.

The ZBC was prejudiced of close to $25 million by the previous board and management between 2009 and 2013, the forensic report by KPMG Chartered Accountants presented to Parliament revealed last week.

The report was presented by Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo in a joint sitting of the Portfolio Committees on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services and Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services.

At the time of the offences, the ZBC was chaired by Cuthbert Dube while Muchechetere was the chief executive. The audit accuses Muchechetere and the four senior managers – Kasu, Mandizvidza, Chiweshe and Nyambudzi – of abusing the broadcaster’s funds.

The managers have since been suspended, while Muchechetere and Kasu also face criminal proceedings in the courts.

“The audit found that the total prejudice to ZBC amounted to $24 968 647,18 and broken down as indicated — the board $274 486 the managers $6 724 322,82,” said Prof Moyo.

“This is what the senior management, executive management, pocketed unlawfully and unprocedurally and then statutory funds and interest instruments amounting to $15 538 658,41 and then there was some other prejudice arising from poor barter deals of $450 055,” he told Parliament.

“On broadcasting archival material, which is a serious source revenue, there was prejudice to the tune of $419 346. Then there was the issue of the OB van pricing, overpricing it to the tune of $786 283 and $133 733 in sundry,” he said.

“The problem areas are six and they are deliberate disregard of statutory provisions, operating losses, and policies for key areas inadequate or non-existent, inconsistent and inefficient procurement, lack of good governance and prejudice to ZBC for personal gain or mismanagement.”

Apart from those amounts, the ZBC also owed Zimra $14 751 567 in the period under review. Muchechetere received a basic salary of $15 000, retention allowance of 50 percent of basic salary, amenities allowances of 35 percent of basic salary, entertainment allowance of 20 percent of basic salary, 100 percent medical aid contribution cover by the company, gym membership, an annual bonus plus a quarterly performance-related bonus of 12.5 percent of annual basic salary upon meeting set targets.

He also received an S350 Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota Landcruiser that he was entitled to buy if he left ZBC, a $3 500 housing allowance while his housing mortgage of $195 624 was taken over by the organisation.

The other three general managers received a basic salary of $11 000, while their retention, amenities and entertainment allowances were also pegged at 50 percent, 35 percent and 20 percent of basic salary, among other benefits. herald