Sweeping interventions aimed at dealing with corporate governance shortcomings, tender malpractices and corruption at power utility ZESA Holdings are on the cards as the parastatal’s new board gets down to business.
Early this year, several Zesa Holdings senior managers were sent on forced leave following a damning forensic audit that unearthed serious allegations of corruption and abuse of office while former chief executive officer Joshua Chifamba’s contract was not renewed.
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi today held his inaugural meeting with the new 10 member ZESA board and tasked it with cleaning up the rot at the power utility.
Chasi said on top of the depressed generation capacity, ZESA was being weighed down by bad governance and high corruption.
“I know it is customary for boards to sit quarterly and so forth but I do not think that is an appropriate model for this business. Why do I say that? We have a myriad of issues bedeviling this organisation. It is a very important organisation which we cannot afford to fail,” he said.
“What government and the public are looking for and expecting is a complete clean-up at ZESA. We need a new ZESA. People need to be transferred, you cannot have someone working at the same station for 30 years. Familiarity breeds contempt, some people are now boards in their different (work) stations.
“Clean-up the place, Zimbabweans are tired of issues that emanate from ZESA. Zimbabweans are tired of load-shedding regardless of explanations given. We do not want load-shedding, we want to expunge the deficit of power that we have, we want to export power.”
Chasi said the new board should urgently study the ZESA forensic audit report and implement its recommendations.
“There are very serious matters raised in that report .You are going to deal with each and every individual who has caused loss to ZESA. Every person must be answerable for what they have done at ZESA and every piece of impropriety must be met with equal force,” he said.
“Part of the reason why we have the current challenges is because of the corruption that was happening there, particularly in procurement, so one of the key deliverable we would like to see from this board is every tight procurement system which ensures that ZESA and the country get value for money all the time.”
Chasi said other challenges that required the board’s immediate attention included vandalism of infrastructure and power theft through illegal connections.
“I am told we are losing something in the region of $40 million (due to illegal connections) per year that is a lot of money (and) that must end,” he said.
“We need to give hope to the country through the work that we are going to do.”
He also tasked the ZESA board with the urgent implementation of the re-bundling of all subsidiary companies under the holding company.
“We also need you to work, as a matter of urgency, on the re-structuring of ZESA, re-bundling. Government has taken a position on this, we think it is cost effective, we think that the structure that has been there had created a huge manning span at the holdings, we think it was costly. There is no room for divided loyalties in ZESA,” he said.
“When you have too many companies around, everyone wants to do their own thing so we are looking to you to creating a cohesive organisation.”
ZESA board chair, Sydney Gata acknowledged the tough task ahead.
“While the spirit is very alive, the capacities have depleted very much. If you just factor the fact that for instance there are 72 former ZESA engineers in the UK, one utility in Australia has 65, at Eskom about 3 months ago the count was 430 ex-ZESA technical staff who emigrated so you look at an organisation that has been severely depleted of the capacities it used to command, that will be a major challenge for us,” he said.- New Ziana