The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) last week disclosed that Cabinet ministers and top government officials were bleeding one of the government owned telecommunications company, NetOne by failing to pay their cellphone bills now hovering around $9 million.
Committee chairperson Kuwadzana MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) told the House that besides the ministers, the government departments also contributed to the bill. Names of the ministers in question were not divulged.
NetOne has all along been struggling with a legacy loan of $32 million, and after getting an allocation of $12 million, its loan now stands at $20 million.
“In terms of their debtors, NetOne is complaining about ministries and government departments that are not paying up their bills,” Chamisa said.
“A case in point is a total of $9 million being owed to NetOne by government departments. I am also told that ministers have a fair chunk because they are using cell phones without paying for them.
“I hope this will be investigated since it is a huge problem which needs to be corrected.”
With regards to TelOne, Chamisa said they were also grappling with a legacy debt of $350 million from the Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) era.
“This debt has definitely affected the balance sheet of TelOne in a negative way. It has made it unattractive and ugly for investors. We need to make it more beautiful so it is attractive to investors.”
He disclosed that TelOne was also owed millions by State-owned enterprises who were not paying bills.
“In addition, TelOne has total debtors to the tune of about $85 million. What is sad is that $40 million is actually owed by State-owned enterprises that are not paying. So, government departments are simply using services from TelOne without necessarily paying for those services.”
Chamisa said some arrangements that TelOne and the State enterprises and parastatals tried to work on to offset the debts were never effective.
As a result of the debts, the committee said TelOne was now trying to come up with a prepaid service, as opposed to a post-paid service as it has affected their debt collection capacity.
The committee said there was need to align ICT legislation with the Constitution in order to deal with issues of data protection loss or e-transaction loss, of which the gap leaves the country exposed to cyber security threats.
Credit : NewsDay