HARARE – Information Communication Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira has appointed a new Zarnet board mandated to turn around fortunes of the cash-strapped parastatal.
This comes as the little-known government Internet service provider last year acquired 60 percent shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe (Telecel) from Netherlands-based VimpelCom for $40 million.
The transaction was, however, facilitated by the deep-pocketed National Social Security Authority.
Mandiwanzira said the unveiling of the new board was necessitated by the recent government “takeover” of Telecel.
“The immediate task of the board is to transform Zarnet from a non-profit institution into a profit-making one so that we can wean the company off from the fiscus,” he said, adding that the new 10-member board must come up with innovative ways to make money.
“The Telecel deal was done by a small board and we want this transaction to pale compared to other big transactions that must be conducted by this new board.
Casper Chigwedere will chair the board, deputised by seasoned ICT systems administrator Mduduzi Gwebu.
Other members of the board include Gilbert Hapanyengwi, Tracy Mupfunya, John Kepekepe, Tariro Mupfumira and Edmore Verenga among others.
Experts say the new board faces a gigantic task to turn around the parastatal which is riddled with corporate governance failures and mismanagement issues.
Zarnet was founded in 1997 and has been operating as an Internet service provider.
It runs government Internet services.
On its website, the company claims the presidential e-learning programme, government digital villages and community information centres as some of its major projects.
Documents gleaned by this paper suggest that the government Internet service provider is servicing a debt of undefined quantum.
A recent audit report also unveiled that Zarnet’s former chief executive was on the payroll, with total gratuity which amounted to $55 000 plus a vehicle, laptop and cellphone.
The company has no clearly defined delegations of authority, hence all decision-making lies in the office of the chief executive.
As a result, it is dogged by underhand dealings on how salary adjustments were made and implemented by management without requisite approval from the board and parent ministry.
“The company had no attendance register for board and committee meetings for the years 2012 and 2013,” an audit report says.
“There was no evidence that board members declared business interests and there were no formal procedures to declare business interests for the company’s key management staff.”
The report also says the company operated with a single committee, that of human resources.
“The company incurred losses from 2011 and has been operating negatively as up to December 31, 2013. Poor cash inflows have impacted negatively on the operational effectiveness of the company, hence the company might fail to fulfil its mandate in the not-too-distant future,” read part of the report.