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Potraz uses USF to fund projects

THE Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has disclosed that it used money from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to finance various developmental projects in underserviced areas to provide access to the postal and telecommunications sector.

BY STAFF REPORTER

The report was tabled during the annual general meeting held last Wednesday, Potraz’s second since it commenced its operations in March 2001, a year after its incorporation.

“During the year ended December 31 2017, the USF continued with the roll-out of projects aimed at extending postal and telecommunications services to both unserved and underserved areas of Zimbabwe,” read the report by the outgoing Potraz chairman Ozias Bvute. 

“Despite the economic challenges experienced in 2017, the revenue for the USF performed above expectations by 11%.

“Operating expenses were contained and 79% savings were achieved against our 2017 budget. An operating surplus of US$14,9 million was realised for deployment to meet the USF’s mandate.”

According to the report, Potraz’s board of trustees made a major advance towards an investment during the year, which saw the USF depositing $19,1 million towards the acquisition of 60% of Telecel International, the majority shareholder of Telecel Zimbabwe.

The acquisition significantly strengthened the USF’s statements of financial position from $21.4 million in 2016 to $32,1 million in 2017.

Potraz director-general Gift Machengete noted that the authority disbursed the USF financial resources towards projects aimed at the extension of communication services to underserviced areas, to needy persons living with disabilities, promote research and development and facilitate training and technology transfer in ICT’s.

The projects included the construction of passive infrastructure to extend coverage in rural areas, internet protocol microwave, the pilot telemedicine project, connectivity in schools under the government’s e-learning project, ICTs for people living with disabilities and the community information centres, which have been rolled out around the country 
“The USF surpassed its budgeted income by US$1,5 million (11%) despite the continued erosion of its main cashflow stream, voice services,” Machengete said.

“Over the top services (OTTs) and other cheaper new services continued to erode the revenue from traditional services, thereby threatening the sustainability of the USF’s lifeline.

“However, against these odds, the USF collected revenue amounting to US$15,5 million in 2017.”

Over the years, Potraz has been challenged by stakeholders to be open about the use of the USF.

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