More than US$1,2 billion in development levies is circulating in Government and mission schools and a chunk of it is being abused by heads and bursars, an audit has revealed.
Other alleged culprits dipping into the US$1,2 billion largesse include school development association officials.
Audit reports gleaned by The Sunday Mail show that some school authorities have been duplicating receipt books as cover to lay their hands on development funds.
A school in Chitungwiza, for instance, claimed to have sunk a borehole for US$19 000 – an amount sufficient to drill five boreholes.
Another inflated the cost of refurbishing one of its buses to US$27 000.
A learning institution in Harare allegedly falsified its yearly wage bill, pegging it at US$261 709 and officials pocketed the difference, and gave its annual administrative and tea budgets as US$67 000 and US$5 000 respectively. The SDA “purchased” a bus for US$180 0 when the actual cost was no more than US$100 000.
This was also despite a standing Government directive for all schools to buy buses from State Procurement Board- approved dealers.
Yet another school splurged US$44 000 on general repairs, a figure authorities query.
Most culprits have been flouting tender regulations, inflating invoices and quotations, and under receipting and banking.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora told this paper that such flagrant fraud had informed Government’s decision to consider removing cash control from SDAs.
“We know for a fact that more than US$1,2 billion is collected through levies, and if only half of that was used to develop the schools we will be talking of something else.
“We have a backlog of 2 000 schools and are collecting a lot of money. How then do we explain the backlog in infrastructure development? Some schools are overstaffed and these employees earn far more than teachers and heads on civil service salaries. This has become a conduit for corruption.
“There is a disconnect between the levies collected and their use. Most of these schools’ levy collection systems are robust, but when it comes to use, (it’s a different story altogether). What the auditors observed was shocking. It’s clear the situation cannot remain like that.”
Zimbabwe Schools Development Associations secretary-general Mr Everisto Jongwe said it was “an open secret” that some school heads were corrupt.
“It is not a secret that levies are abused. Audits have shown that heads and bursars are implicated. In some cases, we have received reports of headmasters who call for the dissolution of committees that question the way the would have used money, or if they refuse to cooperate with them.
“On that same note, we are not against the dissolution of SDAs, but we need to be consulted so that we can make an input. Parents are important stakeholders in the development of schools and children and should be involved.”
In 2015, Government commissioned an audit into schools’ operations following indications of fraud and abuse of funds.
Comptroller and Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri has previously reported on such activities in some Government departments and parastatals, including the education sector.
One case before the courts involves a bursar in Epworth who allegedly connived with the school’s ex-headmistress to steal more than US$8 000.
Another bursar in Westlea, Harare is accused of converting US$30 000 to personal use, while another in Karoi allegedly helped himself to US$39 000.
SDAs are primarily responsible for school development and hiring additional staff were the need arises, and are funded from levies.
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