Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) dismissed over 100 bus conductors, with several being prosecuted in the courts, in the first four months of this year in a ticket scam that was bleeding the transport utility.
The Herald understands that the conductors would issue the same tickets to different passengers, enabling them to pocket large sums of money.
The pilferage resulted in the firm strengthening its inspectorate teams and planting informers.
Recently, Zupco introduced the “tap-and-go” electronic payment system that will be mounted on its fleet, which will run to 3 000 at peak as the country introduces a mass public transportation system.
Investigations by The Herald established that in some cases, a conductor would pocket fares for the whole 75-seater bus after issuing out old tickets.
Some people blamed Zupco for recruiting degreed staff, some with master’s degrees as conductors, who were advanced in terms of fraud.
Among those arrested and taken to the Harare Magistrates’ Court was a law student, who had deferred studies to raise college fees.
An impeccable source said most cases involved re-issuance of old tickets to passengers.
“Since the tickets had serial numbers, some conductors would start issuing out tickets bearing the last serial numbers, according to the ticket book sequence.
“The same tickets are collected when the passengers disembark. They are reissued to other passengers later in the day to hoodwink inspectors who usually make spot checks after lunch,” said the source.
Another source said in some cases, conductors would just collect the money without issuing tickets.
“Passengers are at times not issued with tickets on evening trips, creating an opportunity for conductors to pocket the money,” the source said.
Cases of theft were rampant on routes like Chitungwiza, Norton and Glen View.
Zupco had to deploy informers on the routes, who would board buses just like any other passenger, to monitor the scam.
The informers were part of the Zupco “hit squad” which falls under the inspectorate.
Most conductors were arrested following tip-offs by whistleblowers.
Zupco chief executive Mr Evaristo Madangwa confirmed the dismissal of over 100 employees over the tickets scandal, but did not disclose the amount lost.
He, however, said pilferage prompted Zupco to introduce the new cashless system where payments are done electronically.
“I can confirm that indeed we have fired a number of conductors since the beginning of the year. They were involved in a scandal whereby tickets were issued twice or thrice to passengers for the purposes of defrauding the company.
“Our alert inspectorate managed to unearth the scam, resulting in the dismissal of at least 100 employees. We had employed them on fixed contracts, hence it was just a matter of terminating their contracts.
“A good number were arrested and taken to court,” he said.
Mr Madangwa said the new ticketing system dubbed “tap and go” would go a long way in reducing pilferage.
“Our new cashless system will reduce cases of theft. If the system is fully implemented, no conductor will touch any cent.
“All the payments will be done straight into the company’s bank and EcoCash accounts,” he said.
President Mnangagwa recently commissioned 39 of the first 300 buses which the Government has secured as part of measures to ease the plight of commuters who are being ripped off by private operators.
The electronic ticketing system introduced by Zupco seeks to increase revenue collection and efficiency.
It will also plug cash leakages.