The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare diverted almost $500 000 meant for the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) to buy food hampers for officials at a time Government is struggling to clear the backlog in tuition and examination fees for disadvantaged pupils.
In her December 31, 2015 report, Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri noted that Treasury, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, released $7 million to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for BEAM, but half a million dollars was diverted to buy food hampers for staff.
The welfare ministry has been failing to pay fees for thousands of vulnerable children. It owes schools about $27 million.
“During the year under review, Treasury released $7 million for the programme (BEAM). Despite arrears amounting to $39 000 as at December 31, 2015, the ministry used $419 968 to meet expenditure not related to BEAM objectives. The risk is that BEAM may fail to meet its objectives if its resources are utilised for expenditure other than advancing the education of the disadvantaged,” reads Ms Chiri’s report.
In its response, the Ministry admitted diverting the money but appeared to dispute the figure.
“It is acknowledged that a total of $239 250 was used to finance staff hampers as per ministry policy and Secretary’s approval. Ideally, this cost should have been met from institutional provisions but unfortunately Treasury did not release the requisite funding over the period. This payment was done using the 10 percent amount,” reads the response from the Ministry.
But Ms Chiri dismissed the claims of 10 percent saying it was a far-fetched assertion.
“The 10 percent that the ministry is basing this expenditure on appears remote from the administration of BEAM,” said Ms Chiri.
BEAM is based on a policy and legal framework that is designed to provide quality education to children, including specific policies aimed at supporting orphans and vulnerable children.
In 2014 representatives of teachers’ unions said BEAM was largely benefiting children from well-to-do families at the expense of the vulnerable. The unions urged Government to review Beam selection criteria as the limited resources were not always going to the most deserving cases.
In another case, Ms Chiri observed that nine Members of Parliament took delivery of vehicles under the Parliamentary Motor Vehicle Loan scheme valued at $315 000 without
signing loan agreements.
She also noted that Parliament of Zimbabwe had not taken action to recover vehicles from 26 MPs that were recalled by their political parties.
The vehicles were worth almost $1 million.
Parliament admitted its failure to ensure that MPs signed loan agreements in respect of the vehicles they took.
“Parliament is engaging the Members to rectify the error,” responded Parliament to audit enquiries.
It also said that the delay in taking action was because the legislators were challenging their expulsion.
“The process to effect the recovery commenced in 2015 and the final letters of demand were sent to members in February 2016,” reads Parliament’s response.