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AUDIT STORM ROCKS ZC

ZIMBABWE Cricket’s audited financial statement for 2015 could spark an investigation after members of the association’s new board raised alarm over questionable operating expenditures, we can reveal. By Enock Muchinjo

The audit report, which has been circulated to the directors as an agenda item for next week’s annual general meeting, has been leaked to the Zimbabwe Independent and raises suspicions among directors. ZC directors are expected to refuse to adopt the audit unless certain clarifications are satisfactorily made.

The audit, conducted by forensic auditors HRL Ruzengwe, says ZC generated annual revenue of US$23 million — a figure boosted by the World Cup held in the same year — but a source within the organisation’s secretariat says the bone of contention among the new youthful board is the way figures were loosely thrown around in the financial report without explicit clarification about how the money was spent.

What has particularly aroused suspicion among new board members, elected to office in August 2015, is US$5,2 million which, according to the audit, went towards “tour expenses”. This is despite the fact that all seven tours embarked on by Zimbabwe in the year under review, both at home and abroad, including the World Cup in Australia, were sponsored.

Bangladeshi sports marketing agency, Total Sport Marketing, had the marketing and broadcasting rights for Zimbabwe during the year under review and, under the deal, were reportedly responsible for such tour expenses in return for marketing the games at a profit.

Zimbabwe’s first outgoing tour of the year in 2015 was at the World Cup in Australasia in February. World cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, fully bankrolls tournament costs.

Zimbabwe was then invited to Pakistan as part of the Asians’ charm offensive to convince other Test-playing nations to tour there following a six-year boycott of the country.

Foreign teams had refused to tour Pakistan over security fears since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009.

In convincing Zimbabwe to tour, Pakistan’s cricket board and government wholly sponsored the tour. Zimbabwe’s delegation was also given financial rewards.

Pakistan then came to Zimbabwe on a reciprocal tour, while New Zealand and Ireland also visited.

Afghanistan were the last to tour Zimbabwe in 2015. Afghanistan, an associate member of the ICC, reportedly covered its own expenses as the war-torn country sought competition against stronger opposition.

All tours in the year were short and included only limited-over games.

Costs for hosting touring teams include the host board paying daily allowances for all players in the touring party and official backroom staff members. The per diems normally range between US$50 and US$100.

Assuming TSM or other ZC sponsors did not pay for this, it would mean the Zimbabwean cricket governing body parted with some US$200 000 in allowances for all five visiting teams at a rate of US$100 and at average of 14 days per tour.

Accommodation costs would also be around the same figure.

Other costs include police escorts for the visiting team bus upon arrival at the airport and for the duration of the tour. When Zimbabwe recently hosted New Zealand in Bulawayo, ZC paid the police US$18 000. This is about the same figure paid when, for example, India toured in 2015.

Then there are other functioning costs, the total of which, according to our sources, doesn’t seem to come near a million dollars — if it was ZC paying and not its sponsors.

This has left the directors with more questions than answers.

Another curious figure in the audit is US$3,1 million spent on “cricket development and operations”, which the directors have also questioned.

There is also “net finance costs” of some US$3 million, which seem to imply such costs and loan payment interests.

ZC is said to owe MetBank millions, among other financial institutions. Another basis of agitation by the directors is that a member of the board’s finance committee was recently denied access to information on the loan activity and repayment plans.

A total of US$18 649 316 is said to have been used in the year while recording a “net operation loss” of US$4 424 958.

The “total comprehensive surplus/loss” for the year was US$3 548 758.

Other areas of concern to the directors are such issues as “conflict of interest.” An internal investigation will be launched soon.

A small private company dealing in female fashion, co-directed by a ZC senior staffer manager and his wife, has been carrying out printing jobs for the cricket association for the last five years.

The named fashion company, another source said, doesn’t itself perform the jobs it gets from ZC. It sub-contracts a leading Harare printing company (also named), and places a mark-up.

ZC, by not directly awarding the tender to the specialist printing company, could have been, knowingly or otherwise, prejudiced several thousands of dollars due to this practise.

The fashion company gets its biggest pay cheque when Zimbabwe hosts international matches where a variety of material such as accreditation cards, tickets and pitch-side billboards need to be printed.

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