Over 150 parents with children at Gokomere Central Primary School (CPS) have reportedly approached the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to report mismanagement of school funds against the Responsible Authority and administration at the Catholic-run institution.
A special audit reportedly carried out between May 31 and June 8 2021, which covers the period from January 1 2020 to May 31 2021 has exposed that the school has been running without a functional School Development Committee(SDC) since 2018, going against Statutory Instrument (SI) 87 of 1992 which stipulates that the SDC should be elected every February.
The parents who levelled allegations of mismanagement of school funds against Gokomere CPS Acting Head Mhangarai Masakadza, together with the Priest In Charge and later attended an exit meeting on August 26 2021 when the audit report was presented, are saying they want those implicated to face disciplinary action as per protocol.
Taurai Marava, one of the parents said although the disgruntled parents were invited to attend the August 26 meeting, they still want Masakadza and Fr James Magadzire to face the law because some of the findings of the audit call for criminal prosecution.
“What is happening at Gokomere is infuriating. We pay money so that our children live and eat well while they are learning at the school, not for the administration and responsible authority to divert the funds to personal use.
“The audit is very clear; recommendations should be followed as a matter of urgency and we need those found wanting to face the law. They should be arrested if need be, because the conditions in which our children are living show that we are only paying for the responsible authority to enjoy our hard earned money,” Marava said.
Contacted for comment, Masvingo Catholic Education Secretary Father Samson Mutsvanga referred questions to Vicar General Father Francis Nyatsanza.
“Diocese spokesperson is Father Nyatsanza, I am sure you have his contact so you can call him on that issue,” Fr Mutsvanga said.
Fr Nyatsanza said the issue had already been finalized and they were in the process of implementing the recommendations made by the auditors.
“That issue has been finalized because an audit was carried out and we are implementing the auditors’ recommendations. Auditors came from Harare and did the audit and we laid the issue to rest,” Fr Nyatsanza said.
In the audit report dated June 16 2021 availed to this publication, groceries worth over ZW$300 000 were bought from school coffers sometime in 2020 through the point of sale (POS) swipe card and were never delivered to the boarding kitchen.
“ZW312 116.59 in school fees and levies was spent mainly for groceries (including colgate, sauce chilli) which were never delivered at the boarding kitchen. The Head claimed that the goods were bought for Responsible Authority although there were no documents from the Responsible Authority requesting for or acknowledging receipt of the goods.
“Withdrawals totaling ZW$152 065.47 were also made but there were no supporting documents which made it difficult to establish the beneficiaries. There was no record for the movement of the swipe card introduced and failed to identify the individual who used it,” read part of the audit report.
Masakadza is quoted in the report saying the groceries were surrendered to the Priest’s kitchen and were for feeding visitors who would come for various workshops.
Auditors then recommended that the head was to present a comprehensive account for groceries not delivered to the school and locate the missing documents that support the over ZW$150 000 that was withdrawn through the POS within 14 days.
“The head should be called upon to present a comprehensive account for the groceries not delivered to the school and locate the missing documents supporting the ZWL152 065.47 withdrawn through POS for audit examination within 14 days. Failure to acquit on these transactions calls for appropriate action,” read the report.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education allows the Responsible Authority of non-government schools to get 10 percent of the total levies collected from learners each term as a development levy for the use of its facilities.
Findings in the audit report however were that parents’ claims that the mission was getting more than the 10 percent levy they were entitled to could not be dismissed, with auditors accusing the mission of draining the school fund account through inter-departmental transactions.
In one example given, the mission reportedly made the school to contribute stock feed worth ZW$9835 for a mission poultry project, after which the former made the latter to buy the chickens produced at market value.
The complaining parents confirmed that they had approached the District School Inspector (DSI) and Provincial Education Director (PED)’s offices to seek reprieve, but not much was done to assist them.
Masvingo DSI Ishmael Chigaba said he was aware of the issue, but was in no position to comment.
“I can confirm that something is going on and something was done, but I cannot comment before the bosses speak, so you can go and see the PED,” Chigaba said.
Acting PED Shylatte Mhike said she was aware of the issue and said she had sent an audit team to the school after some parents had complained, and had not yet received the audit report as she was in Mwenezi.
“I sent an audit team to the school after some parents had complained, but I can no longer remember when exactly. I am in Mwenezi for work, I should have given you the full details. I am yet to receive the audit report from the auditors that I sent,” Mhike said.
Some of the parents however said Mhike attended the August 26 and was aware of the audit findings.
A parent who spoke on condition of anonymity said of all the issues they raised, the one about the SDC was the most critical saying as it stood, there was no parents input especially on fees increase.
“Even after the audit recommendations stated that an SDC was to be put in place, this is not the case. On the fees issue, they just sent us three figures to vote on without even giving us a budget.
“They increased fees by ZW$11 000 from ZW$24 000 to ZW$35 000 without giving us the budget and we refused to pay, so on Monday (opening day) they denied our children entry into the hostels, after which we ordered our kids to go inside while we sorted our issues with them,” she said.
Another parent who said she was catholic therefore could only speak anonymously said when the parents raised the issues about the school admin and responsible authority not following acquittal processes on spending money from school coffers, they professed ignorance.
“How do you not know about accounting protocol if you are in charge of school accounts, yet you spend willy-nilly like that? What they did are criminal offences and in human resources, when such happens, disciplinary action must be taken, which is what we are expecting.
“It is evident that there was abuse of funds, therefore arrests have to be made because that is due process. Ignorance of a law is not an excuse,” the parent said.
ZACC spokesperson Jon Makamure could neither deny nor confirm receiving the report but said he will check with Masvingo provincial office if they had received it.
“I will have to check with the Masvingo office. If they reported a case we will definitely investigate,” Makamure said.
Sources close to the developments said Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education auditors who conducted the audit had already gone to ZACC to have their statements recorded early this week.
Earlier this year, the complaining parents wrote a petition to various authorities calling for intervention on what they called looting of the school accounts by the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Masvingo at the expense of the pupils.