Vodacom breaks silence on 700bn/- fraud allegation

In a carefully-worded statement, the firm says it has terminated a lucrative tender with one of its super dealers, Shivacom, over “duplicate airtime vouchers” circulating on the market.

Dar es Salaam. First it was just a rumour on social media, pretty much in the same way that Tanzania’s biggest scandals have started online. But Vodacom has finally broken its silence on the alleged $350 million (700bn/-) fraud.

In a carefully-worded statement, the firm says it has terminated a lucrative tender with one of its super dealers, Shivacom, over “duplicate airtime vouchers” circulating on the market.

The company sidestepped the term fraud in a statement sent to the media late on Thursday.

The Citizen could not independently verify the actual loss arising from the scam involving printing and distributing fake airtime recharge vouchers. But Vodacom strongly denied that the loss amounted to $350 million and said an anonymous blogger had grossly inflated the figure.

Vodacom Tanzania’s chief officer responsible for Corporate Affairs, Ms Georgia Mutagahywa, said in a statement on Thursday evening that there was no multi-million dollar loss. But she would not go into details due to “potential for litigation with Shivacom”.

A Member of Parliament who has keenly followed the scandal and claims to be an interested party told The Citizen: “Vodacom’s admission could lead to litigation from those who bought the fake airtime, which was circulated in the market during that period.”

The MP, speaking on condition that he was not named, added: “I think the regulator (Tanzania Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) needs to investigate what really transpired because thousands of customers were affected.”

Shivacom is owned by Mr Tanil Somaiya, a one-time business partner of Mr Saileshi Vithlani--who corruptly brokered the 2001 controversial radar deal that cost the nation Sh50 billion.

Vodacom signed an agreement with Shivacom eight years ago in which the latter was to print and supply airtime vouchers known as “Jero Jero” for low income earners. The vouchers were sold at Sh500 each.

Shivacom is alleged to have supplied duplicate vouchers worth billions of shillings during that period, which were then sold on the market before Vodacom detected the dubious trade. Shivacom officials were unavailable for comment.
Source: The Citizen, reported from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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