By Margaret Matibiri
THE Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation(ZBC) has found itself facing financial challenges due to lack of funding from the government and very low license compliance, the Public Account Committee heard this Friday from the corporation’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Engineer Wisdom Hombarume.
The Acting CEO who was accompanied by the corporation’s Head of Internal Audit, Joseph Chimwanda, was giving evidence before the committee which is chaired by MDC legislator, Tendai Biti on why the institution is among 38 other parastatal State-owned enterprise and State institutions which have failed to prepare financial accounts and submit their audit reports dating as back as 2016 to the Auditor General in compliance with the law in terms of Section 8 of the Public Finance Management Act.
The act stipulates that State-owned enterprises must prepare financial accounts and submit their audit reports within two months after the close of a year.
Engineer Hombarume who has been at the helm of power at the corporation for the past six months in acting capacity said the State broadcaster was struggling financially and currently waiting for government funding as it last received a grant in 2001.
“The board is new and this is their seventh month in office, it is a well-constituted board with four ladies and five gentlemen. It is a board that we as management believe has got a thrust and trajectory that may actually bring ZBC out of the doldrums and out of the financial crisis that we have been in,” said Engineer Hombarume.
“ZBC as you know last had funding government support in 2001, it has been running on air since so to speak. When the new board came in we advocated for funding, we have since done a paper even outside of the budget time we were then considered for budgetary support, we were promised and now it has been signed off and now we still don’t know how much it is but now we are on government funding.”
When asked by Zanu PF legislator, Dexter Nduna why the State broadcaster was not broadcasting all parliamentary stations on their radios, the acting CEO said it had become too expensive and the corporation was experiencing challenging.
Whenever we do a live broadcast we incur costs not just on the staffing but also other factors like TelOne. The process of taking off ZBC from funding was supposed to benefit us, I just don’t know how but I suppose it was because we receive the ZBC license but compliance rate has since gone down and currently it’s standing at about three percent to four percent so obviously that could not cover the public mandate requirements for funding,” he said.
“Now it’s a downward spiral kind of case where if you are not collecting enough revenue, you cannot produce good enough content and when you don’t create good content advertiser’s do not come to your platforms when advertiser’s do so, you are not generating revenue and you are back to not creating good content and the cycle goes. We are glad that this is something that the ministry, the government has taken on board and considered us for funding now but this does not blow away the reasons or other factors that such a system then creates, because of low revenue and also no concrete funding that means the condition of service of ZBC started to deteriorate, low revenue meant poor remuneration, poor working standards and poor conditions of work.
“Your national broadcaster has been losing staff to competitors be it the regional or international ones. Staff turnover also became an issue, we have gotten an enterprise resource planning system that we use and because of again the issue of funding, we could not fully utilise this system as it is a license based system where you perennially apply license so at best we should be having over 189 licenses but we currently only have 10 so that means we cannot fully take advantage of this system because systems and departments which are supposed to fully integrate to enhance efficiency cannot because we are lacking in the licensing henceforth that caused massive delays in putting together our financial statements, information and all that is required to come up with a coherent standing financial statement over and above the delays that were caused by the KMPG forensic audit.”
The committee’s chair, Biti, indicated that his Committee would help ZBC get the much-needed funding.
By Margaret Matibiri