School levy opens up Pandora’s box

Minister Dokora
Minister Dokora

TAX experts have called on the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Lazarus Dokora to consult widely before entertaining thoughts of introducing a levy targeting school suppliers.

Addressing delegates during the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), Dr Dokora said his ministry would, with effect from this month, start levying school suppliers in a bid to raise funds for the development of infrastructure in schools.

The more than 1 600 service providers that supply the ministry with stationery, sports equipment, computers and technological equipment, among other things will be required to pay levy.

Dr Dokora said those that are not interested in paying the levy risk losing business with schools.

Mr Tendai Mavima, a tax expert with the Tax Management Services, said there is no legal framework to enforce such a decision, adding that Dr Dokora must consult widely and clarify a number of issues before coming up with such a policy statement.

The proposed levy to school suppliers is being roundly criticised
The proposed levy to school suppliers is being roundly criticised

“First and foremost, I don’t understand where the Minister is coming from.

“One cannot just wake up and announce a new levy. The introduction of new taxes is done in accordance with the Finance Act and this is the prerogative of the Minister of Finance,” Mr Mavima said.

Mr Mavima said the Minister will actually be “shooting himself in the foot” if such a levy is introduced.

“It is a misconception on the part of the Minister to claim that the suppliers are simply collecting money from the ministry and walking away.

“The suppliers are providing goods for value and are already paying other levies.

“In the event that such a levy is introduced, companies will either increase their prices or stop doing business with the ministry,” added Mr Mavima.

Economist Mr Takunda Mugaga concurred with Mr Mavima, adding that the introduction of the levy will not achieve the intended goals.

“The introduction of the levy will not make any difference. Instead, corrupt schools officials will form unholy alliances with suppliers and inflate prices.

“The proposal is too soft and prone to manipulation,” Mr Mugaga said.

Mr Mugaga said there is need for Government to monitor and control financial systems in schools.

“Government intervention in schools is very minimal.

“We have instances in which headmasters employ their friends and relatives as bursars with the intention of committing fraud. Independent accountants must be employed to manage school funds,” added Mr Mugaga.

Besides lacking the required legal framework, Mr Mugaga said the intended levy will reverse the gains that have so far been achieved in the education sector.

Zimbabweans are heavily taxed, paying income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and excise taxes among many others.

Parents have also raised concerns against the proposed levy.

“I am not sure how the levy is going to be enforced.

“I only pray that parents will not end up paying more. As parents, we are heavily taxed already,” said Mr Samuel Muramba, a parent.

Some congested schools are still using the hot-seating system. It is estimated that a total of 1 500 satellite schools need rehabilitation.

Addressing Parliament last year, the Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavhima, said Zimbabwe needs 2 000 more schools to close the teacher-pupil ratio which currently stands at 1:70 at some schools.

The ministry prefers a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30.

Prof Mavhima said some pupils are walking close to 24 kilometres to go to the nearest school whilst others are attending lessons in tobacco barns and under trees without furniture.

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