Sikhulekelani Moyo, business journalist
Zimbabwe National Railways (NRZ) reassigned the management of its real estate portfolio to zone managers amid reports the parastatal was losing around $ 22 million a year, allegedly due to corruption by barons of space.
NRZ’s real estate business portfolio is responsible for overseeing the assets of the parastatal enterprise which include commercial land and farms, offices, residential homes (private employees and tenants), warehouses and commercial developments in stations and sidings as well as joint venture developments on railway reserves.
NRZ Acting Managing Director Ms Respina Zinyanduko said that, in line with the ongoing restructuring program, the entity’s real estate department has been redesigned to respond to several allegations of corruption and professional misconduct that have arisen over the years.
“It should be noted that the real estate department was rocked by a number of corruption cases and was losing around $ 22 million a year to the space barons who rented out the organization’s properties and premises in the whole country, ”she said.
“After the discovery of the ‘rot’ of the subletting of its premises by space barons, particularly in its eastern area of operations based in Harare, a resolution was taken to reassign the management of the real estate portfolio to managers in the NRZ zone. “
“In addition, the standardization of all rental contracts and land zoning and the application of uniform rental fees for each zone were underway and a robust lease approval system with checks and balances was developed. to ensure transparency.
“The compilation of the asset register is underway and the NRZ is in the process of reclaiming some of its land which had been illegally occupied and, in some cases, transferred. “
The exercise resulted in a more than 100% increase in NRZ revenue collection in the real estate department.
Ms Zinyanduko said the NRZ procurement department was also another department that needed an overhaul.
“NRZ’s audit department has done a good job unearthing some of the cases that have not been handled properly, thus helping the organization to recover from stray suppliers while revising its structure in line with best practices,” said she declared.
The government asked the NRZ to undertake a restructuring initiative by aligning the organizational structure with the requirements of the companies.
The restructuring initiative also saw the parastatal reducing the number of directors from five to three while the organizational structure was revised to improve operational efficiency.
Recently, the NRZ board and management, after extensive exercise, proposed a solid structure envisioned for maximum use of staff and improved operational efficiency.
“We have exposed some of the benefits derived from the restructuring exercise and the allegations of discontent and alleged nepotism that have been reported in some sections of the media are baseless and malicious intended to discredit one of the most successful restructuring exercises. of the history of the organization, ”said Ms. Zinyanduko.
When asked to give an example of some of the departments where the restructuring initiative has been implemented, she said:
“One of the reorganized departments includes the construction department. This department consisted of more than 100 employees who are of different ranks including executives, craftsmen, assistants and workers.
“Department staff spent most of their time idle as there was less activity due to lack of resources and, in most cases, the use of contractors to undertake repair and maintenance work. maintenance of NRZ buildings.
“This caused management to reassign most of the employees to other areas of need where the organization would benefit from their services. The department now has fewer than 20 system-wide people whose primary responsibility is to make minor repairs and supervise contractors during repair and maintenance work.
Another wing dedicated to drilling and maintenance has also been added to the site service.
This was after realizing that some employees in the site department had expertise in drilling and maintaining boreholes.
NRZ needs 80 system-wide boreholes to support its operations given the erratic water supply from some local authorities.
“A cost benefit analysis was done and it was realized that NRZ would benefit more if it acquires its own borehole drilling rig like the Zimbabwe National Army has done. This will be used to meet NRZ requirements as well as for commercial purposes, ”she said.
As a result of the restructuring program, some of the construction department staff would also be redeployed to the NRZ Nalatale mine in Shangani where NRZ intends to produce ballast stones for its main line.
The ballast stone application was last done over 15 years ago which made most NRZ runways deplorable.
“The application of ballast stone would require huge quantities of quarry stone and cannot be maintained using ballast purchased from commercial quarry suppliers,” she said.
Ms. Zinyanduko said all reassignments are done on a lateral transfer basis and in rare circumstances employees would be redeployed within the same department on a personal to incumbent basis.
The same goes for the NRZ’s central mechanical depot, which has more than 80 employees, but very few vehicles are being repaired.
“The staff of this service (central mechanical depot) has been reduced to 27 system-wide and excess staff have been redeployed to other areas of need.
“The whole exercise was carefully done with cost-benefit analysis done at every step to determine the benefits NRZ was getting from each department.
“Employees in these two departments needed additional training to be able to perform their duties effectively.
“Most of the employees at the central mechanical depot were not certified auto mechanics, but rather fitters with only a basic understanding of vehicle repairs and maintenance. The organization has set up training programs for these employees, ”she said.
The NRZ restructuring exercise was sometimes met with resistance as some people were used to benefiting from the organization, siphoning funds through different channels.