HARARE, February 2 (The Source) – The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) plans to use its cash rich Universal Services Fund (USF) as collateral to access loans from China, an official said on Thursday.
ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira told journalists following a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Huang Ping, that the USF raises about $2 million a month from telecommunications operators who contribute at least 1.5 percent of their gross revenue to the fund. The fund is meant for infrastructure development in outlying areas.
The fund is cash rich, and between 2009 and 2015, had raised nearly $70 million from contributions of telcos — Econet Wireless, $55 million; Telecel, $10 million and NetOne, $4 million.
Last year, the Auditor-General, Mildred Chiri reported that Potraz had given the ICT ministry loans amounting to $10 million, $194,564 and $95,000 for the acquisition of government’s shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe and purchasing of vehicles for Mandiwanzira and his deputy Win Mlambo without Treasury concurrence.
The report said the ministry also borrowed an additional $58,888 from Potraz and state owned mobile operator NetOne, highlighting the extent to which broke Ministries are increasingly relying on the state owned enterprises they are supposed to administer.
Mandiwanzira said more funds were needed.
“There are many areas in our country which still do not have telecommunications services, it is the responsibility of Potraz to invest in these areas using the universal services fund. The fund collects nearly $2 million every month but that is not enough to deploy infrastructure across the entire country,” said Mandiwanzira.
“Therefore the discussion with his excellency the Chinese Ambassador has been on how we can access resources which we guarantee to repay through the inflows to the USF.”
Last year on April 5, Potraz officials told a Parliamentary committee that it had an annual budget of $13 million, and was planning to construct 11 base stations using USF funds. Up to that date, it had only managed to construct 12 base stations.