Equipment release awaits $19m disbursement
TREASURY should expedite the disbursement of $19 million to the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services by mid-August for the release of equipment which is currently being held in Germany to facilitate the completion of the Zimbabwe Digital Broadcasting Migration Project, Parliament heard yesterday.
The Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Broadcasting Services chaired by Umzingwane legislator Cde William Dhewa (Zanu-PF) said the project may soon become a white elephant if Treasury does not give attention to it.
The committee was presenting its first report on the Zimbabwe Digital Broadcasting Migration Project in Parliament. As such, the committee called for the establishment of a disbursement plan between the ministry and that of Finance and Economic Development.
“The Government contracted Huawei International to carry out the digitalisation project at a cost of $125 million. A total of $94 million was for equipment and $31 million for services. Disbursements to date are over $23 million for equipment and services including 10 percent advance payment,” reads the report.
“Erratic or non-disbursement of funds, especially the much awaited $19 million will stall progress and further delay the completion of the project. Equipment worth about $16 million is ready for shipment pending pre-shipment payment. However, outstanding payments to Huawei to date is about $19 million for both equipment and services.”
The Committee said equipment worth $17,3 million has been released that includes head-end equipment, satellite uplink, power systems of head end, pockets hill and transmitter sites, transmitter equipment and antenna systems for eight sites.
Other equipment includes regulatory content monitoring equipment, six new tower material, Pockets Hill equipment for two studios, master control room and play-out systems and 500 test set top boxes.
The committee raised concern on the lackadaisical approach being taken by the ministry on the continued importation of non-digital television sets saying this will result in Zimbabwe being the dumping ground of nondigitally compliant television sets.
“The Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services should gazette regulations restricting further importation of digitally compatible television sets that are non-compatible. Importation of digitally compatible television sets should be encouraged through a reduction of a duty,” the report read.
The committee then recommended for content producers to be allowed deferment of duty on imported operational materials or equipment as a strategy to encourage more content production.
It called for awareness campaigns in various districts for the impartation of knowledge to citizens as well as provide educational materials.
Meanwhile, the committee noted that the ministry, through its permanent secretary, Mr George Charamba, said it was alive to the need to align media laws with the new Constitution.
Mr George Charamba