HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC) is giving its employees and government officials millions of dollars worth of free electricity.
Members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Mines and Energy took Julian Chinembiri, the ZETDC managing director, to task after he revealed that the company was losing tens of millions of dollars in free electricity to its employers and ministry of Mines officials.
The committee, chaired by Paradzai Chakona, heard that ZETDC’s over 5 000 employees, including pensioners, were entitled to $160 worth of electricity per month.
Chinembiri also said that the Mines and Energy ministry workers were entitled to free power units worth $100 each per month.
The committee heard that the power utility loses about $9 million worth of electricity per year through the freebies.
“We give the free electricity to employees in an effort to try and motivate them to ensure they give maximum service,” Chinembiri said.
“It should be highlighted though that it is part of their conditions of service and that is a taxable benefit.”
This did not go down well with legislators who questioned the logic of giving free services at a time the power utility was struggling to service its debt to various service providers which totals an incredible $132 529 204.
“Assuming that what you are saying is applied to other ministries, would it make sense to have say the ministry of Tourism having to give an elephant each to their employees in the parks and wildlife department?” asked Zanu PF MP Munyaradzi Kereke.
Chinembiri also revealed that the company owed a total of $132 529 204 to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, BancAbc, Stanbic Bank, NMB, IDBZ in funds lent to them for various projects while its external debt is $169 223 72.
Pressed by Tafanana Zhou, Mberengwa North Zanu PF MP, to furnish the committee with names of ministry officials who were beneficiaries of the free electricity, Chinembiri said he could not provide the information off the cuff.
Fani Munengami , the Glen View North MDC MP, queried why the power utility was not reimbursing those who pay for materials such as poles and transformers to install electricity at their premises on their own.
Chinembiri told the committee that it was ZETDC’s policy that no individual can own electricity networks even when they contribute to the development of the infrastructure.
“We normally ask those that would want to use the infrastructure to pay to the individuals or cooperatives who will have established them but I can see there is also personal drive in this matter given that there are members who are victims,” Chinembiri said.
Munengami had indicated that he had not been reimbursed when he purchased his own equipment.