PARLIAMENT yesterday approved the $98,6 million loan agreement between government and Export Import Bank of China relating to fund TelOne’s backbone network expansion.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Initially, opposition MPs refused to approve the loan deal demanding assurances that the money would not be abused by NetOne managers, but later gave it a nod after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa gave guarantees that the funds would managed by government through an escrow account.
The money is meant to fund phase two of the fibre optic project and upgrade capacity in Mashonaland West and Central provinces.
Chinamasa said: “The loan represents 85% of the contract amount balance of 15%, an amount which had been used in implementing phase one. The terms of the loan facility are 2% interest per annum with a grace period of five years. The tenure of the loan is 20 years, with management fees of 0,5% and commitment fees of 0,5%. The counterpart fund of 15% has already been implemented in phase one.
“Proceeds will be reinforced into an escrow account managed by government and the Chinese bank, and if the loan agreement resources are not sufficient, the agreement indicates that extra revenue from the NetOne escrow account will be used to settle TelOne debts,” Chinamasa said.
Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Maridadi (MDC-T) said $98,6 million was a lot of money, adding he was surprised Chinamasa had the guts to bring a loan approval agreement for TelOne when its sister company NetOne was currently hit by reports of corruption.
Chinamasa said there was no link between the TelOne loan and the NetOne corruption.
Mazowe South MP Fortune Chasi (Zanu PF) said while corruption at the parastatals was unpalatable, there was need for the loan, adding that government monitoring tools must be sharpened.
Binga South MP Joel Gabbuza (MDC-T) said government must be wary of implementation times of projects because technology kept changing.
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) said Chinamasa and other ministers were breaching the Constitution by not giving updates twice a year on implementation of projects from loans.
“The capacity of TelOne is such that government departments owe $80 million to TelOne, $40 million by government and $40 million by parastatals, and are in the habit of using the phone without paying. We cannot come here and approve loans when there is no capacity by government to be disciplined. TelOne also has a $350 million legacy debt and why do we continue to pile debts? We cannot be professional borrowers,” Chamisa said.
Meanwhile, Glen View North MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T), Mutasa South MP Irene Zindi (Zanu PF) and Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) supported each other in raising a point of order that Parliament had failed to organise transport to allow MPs to attend funerals of fellow legislators.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda took responsibility for the oversight and said he would discuss the matter with Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda to ensure deceased MPs were given a befitting send- off by their colleagues.