ZACC, RBZ descend on defiant schools

05 May, 2024 - 14:05 0 Views
ZACC, RBZ descend on defiant schools

The Sunday Mail

Debra Matabvu and Richard Muponde

Government has launched a multi-agency operation to account for schools demanding tuition fees exclusively in foreign currency while refusing to accept Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG), in contravention of exchange control regulations.

Officers from the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and police will be deployed to pursue school authorities that are breaking the law.

Preliminary investigations by the FIU have since established that some schools are demanding up to 80 percent of tuition fees in United States dollars and the rest in local currency.

Other school authorities are reportedly claiming their accounting systems are yet to be configured to process ZiG payments, and yet others are demanding fees at black market exchange rates.

The FIU, however, indicated that most schools have been cooperating.

A survey by The Sunday Mail last week also established that some public and private schools were demanding at least partial payment of tuition and school development levies in US dollars or at inflated exchange rates.

Most Government and mission boarding schools have pegged their school fees at between US$300 and US$600, and some are requiring full payment upfront in foreign currency.

Day schools are also requesting levies in foreign currency, though some are offering payment plans.

Those accepting the local currency are pegging their fees to black market rates, which can be as high as US$1:ZiG22.

In addition to law-enforcement agencies, the Government will deploy school inspectors nationwide to ensure schools offer various payment options.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary Mr Moses Mhike said schools were obliged to accept payments in ZiG.

“As shared by the RBZ in their Monetary Policy Statement as monetary authorities, schools are obliged to accept ZiG as part of the multi-currency system that is operating in the country,” he said.

“Therefore, school authorities are expected to abide by the pronouncement made by the RBZ in terms of the new currency that has been introduced.

“It is not a matter of choice but to simply accept ZiG as legal tender, which is amongst the basket of other currencies.

“Therefore, as usual, schools are expected to provide to parents and guardians all the payment modalities, like payment in cash, online transfers and swipe.”

Parents and guardians, he added, must be allowed to pay tuition and levies in the currency of their choice.

“The ministry will be working with other Government agencies, including, ZACC, FIU, the police, as well as our school inspectors to ensure compliance with the use of the multi-currency system.

“Any school heads who defy this directive will have disciplinary measures taken against them.”

Last year, the Government set up close to 100 rapid response centres countrywide for parents to report schools that unilaterally hike tuition fees and turn away learners for non-payment of fees, among other malpractices.

More than 250 officials in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education were assigned to handle cases of alleged misconduct.

Mr Mhike said these centres have since been revived.

“These command centres have been a good feedback mechanism to the ministry on matters that concern us as a sector and they are still functional,” he said.

“Over and above the specific individuals who were seconded to handle concerns from our stakeholders, our offices, including head office, remain open to deal with any matters of concern.

“As a ministry, we are grateful that a lot of issues were brought to our attention.

“For this reason, we would like to encourage our stakeholders to approach our offices — district, provincial or even head office.

“All reported cases are being actioned.”

Crackdown

In a separate interview, FIU director-general Mr Oliver Chiperesa said the agency was receiving numerous complaints about exchange control violations by school authorities.

“We are getting more and more complaints against schools. Some of them are refusing to accept ZiG altogether, while others are taking ZiG but using parallel market rates,” he said.

“One school in Masvingo is limiting payment in ZiG to 20 percent of the total fees while demanding the other 80 percent in US dollars.

“That is illegal.

“We are taking action against all the schools reported to us.”

He said most schools that have been red-flagged “have been cooperative and have immediately reversed their illegal demands”.

Legal tender

National Association of Secondary School Heads president Mr Arthur Maphosa said all members had been informed that the new local currency was legal tender.

“As schools, we have not faced any challenges with ZiG and we have asked our members to accept it,” he said.

“As an association, we have said parents and guardians should be given options to pay fees and not forced to pay exclusively in US dollars.

“However, there will be instances where schools will need to negotiate with parents and guardians to ensure there is foreign currency to buy commodities such as fuel.

“This will be negotiated with parents and again no one will be forced to pay fees in foreign currency so that these commodities are bought.”

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