Abuse of school levies and inflated prices for school properties such as buses and other projects are among the financial abuses parents with pupils in Zimbabwe are exposed to and investigations show that school heads could and other officials could be pocketing extra money from this.
Investigations showed that parents are often forced to contribute money towards the purchase of school buses for many years at an inflated price.
Parents with pupils at a school in Harare are up in arms with the school authorities after discovering that the head inflated the price of a school bus bought a few years ago.
“A quick search on the internet shows that the bus only cost US100 000 but the headmaster and the school development committee alleged that they bought it at around US$220 000,” said one disgruntled parent.
In some cases parents in rural areas are forced to pay levies using livestocks. A head at a school in Gutu was found hanging in an apparent suicide after abusing school funds.
Late last year, three school heads in Gweru were suspended for allegedly embezzling funds. The heads of Chikumbiro Primary School, Mkoba 3 and Nkululeko high schools were implicated in the financial rot following audits by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education last month.
Mkoba 3 High School headmaster Ronnie Munhenzwa and his Nkululeko High counterpart Jealous Sungwa were allegedly served with suspension letters onNovember 2.
Midlands Provincial Education Director, Agnes Gudo last year confirmed the suspension of the three school heads. She, however, did not divulge the amounts involved.
“The heads for Mkoba 3 secondary, Nkululeko high school and Chikumbiro primary school have been suspended facing allegations of fraud,” she said.
In another incident Milton High School head William Ncube and his deputy Nosizi Muleya, were suspended for alleged abuse of funds following audits by the Ministry.
Townsend High School headmistress Millicent Moyo was censured for contravening the Public Finance Management Act and the Treasury Instructions Act after auctioning pupils’ cellphones without permission.
A survey by this reporter showed that the rampant abuse of school levies have given rise to extortionists who purport to be either police or journalists.
“There are people who are moving around claiming to be journalists or police and threaten school headmasters that if they do not pay $400 they will be exposed. Under panic, the headmasters are quick to give them money,” said Knight Chigara, a village head in Hurungwe.
Forensic audits ordered by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education have revealed that school authorities across the country could have embezzled millions of dollars from levies paid by parents.
According to the report, about 1,800 schools (18 percent) have been audited and the exercise has unearthed massive doctoring of accounts documents to conceal the shenanigans.
The auditors head office in Harare, the provinces and districts conducted are conducting the exercise.
Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavhima, confirmed that the audits unearthed massive theft of funds by school authorities. He said about $1 billion was raised by schools through levies every year.
Prof Mavhima said if misappropriation was allowed to continue, it would result in schools failing to undertake infrastructure development.
He said in order for the government to plug the loopholes, there was a need to audit all the schools since the audit indicated that misappropriation was rampant. He said the anomalies were picked in both urban and rural schools.
Teachers’ Unions rubbished the exercise saying it was a witch hunting exercise with no solutions proffered.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe described the move as a “worthless exercise” as it was targeting “small fish”.
“This audit is merely a scapegoat of investigating small issues while the real issues that are disrupting progress in Zimbabwe such as corruption within the government itself go untouched,” he said.
“The government should therefore first investigate itself before it starts victimising the smaller people. Our position is that this is a waste of national resources.”
Majongwe said the government should suggest solutions to the abuse of school levies rather than identifying which heads and SDAs had embezzled funds.
“School headmasters are not qualified to be dealing with school finances as well as the SDAs’. What the government should do is provide solutions to this problem instead of victimising individuals in their audit.
“Schools need qualified accountants and finance managers that should deal with the school levies,” he said.
“Yes, this may help in identifying and rooting out the corrupt teachers and headmasters, but the fact of the matter remains that the real problems making teachers embezzle funds lie in the corrupt departments of government.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said: “It will be unfortunate if this investigation is just a witch-hunting exercise that does not have any solutions to these problems.
However, we welcome this audit as it will expose fraudulent activities in schools and make them able to refocus on developing the school.”