Sunday, 16 October 2016

ZIMDEF : A HISTORY OF ABUSE

PUBLIC officials have for years regarded the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) as a kitty to fund lives of luxury.

Documents in The Sunday Mail's possession point to a history of abuse by Zimdef officials and those from the Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry. Money from Zimdef has been used to fund luxury vehicles, eyebrow-raising fuel allowances, Christmas parties and farm workers’ allowances and salaries.

An audit instituted by former Higher Education Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri tried to end that behaviour at Zimdef, but if allegations against incumbent portfolio head Professor Jonathan Moyo are anything to go by, not much has been done to consolidate her attempt at a clean-up.

According to the probe by the National Manpower Advisory Council audit committee for the period covering 1 January 2011 to 28 February, 2015, Zimdef is a piggy bank for public officials. In that time, US$2 107 573 was used to buy luxury vehicles and US$702 718 was spent on their maintenance costs.

That audit said Higher Education Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa approved a policy that gave the Zimdef trustee — who is the minister — to get a 4×4 vehicle and an office at Zimdef’s head office.

“Vehicles bought by Zimdef directly for use by the ministry include a Toyota double-cab for Mr Karimanzira — professional assistant to the trustee/minister, Madza BT50 double cab for Mrs Mapfumo — personal assistant to the minister, Mazda BT50 for the minister and a Peugot 406 for Mrs Mutendwa,” said the audit.

Former Higher Education Permanent Secretary Dr Washington Mbizvo, the audit said, used Zimdef money to pay his workers at Woodlands Farm; while other funds were spurged on Christmas parties, dinner dances and personal assistants’ annual conferences in South Africa when similar training programmes were available in Zimbabwe.

Dr Mbizvo was paid per diem, travelling and subsistence allowances by Zimdef when he also received the same from his ministry. The audit says he also made donations using Zimdef money.

“It appears that the Perm Sec (Dr Mbizvo) abused the authority of his position by instructing Zimdef to pay for expenditure that is outside its mandate, and without the necessary supporting documents,” reads part of the audit.

Zimdef CEO Mr Frederick Mandizvidza, according to the audit, accessed a questionable US$35 000 loan to renovate his Alexander Park house on 29 November, 2013. He also got a US$21 654 educational loan over and above the free education allowance paid by Zimdef for his four children.

The CEO accessed four concurrent loans amounting to US$66 735 instead of three as per organisational policy, and instead of paying back in three years required, requested that he do so over four-and-a-half years.

Mr Mandizvidza and Zimdef principal director (finance) Mr Nicholas Mapute used six and four vehicles each, and gobbled over 10 000 litres of fuel in one year, according to the audit.
Former Higher Education Minister Dr Stan Mudenge received 10 500 litres of fuel between 26 May 2011 and 12 September, 2012; while another ex-office holder Dr Olivia Muchena received 6 000 litres of fuel in just four months. Dr Gandawa received 4 000 litres of fuel in four months while Dr Mbizvo got 1 000 within two months.

Auditors noted that fuel allocation to the minister and ministerial staff was “too high given that they have other allocations from the ministry”.

“Zimdef funds are solely contributed by industry and commerce and are aimed at funding ‘the development of skilled manpower in Zimbabwe’. It seems the provisions of the Manpower Planning and Development Act, Chapter 28:02 (1996) were over-stretched by the (Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development) to fit whatever expenditures that could not be justified under the Government’s fiscal budget allocation to the ministry.

“Zimdef became a soft cash cow to fund Christmas parties, dinners, lunches, meetings, farm workers and secretaries’ celebrations,” reads part of the audit.

The auditors noted, “In terms of its mandate, Zimdef funded the training needs of apprentices at vocational technical, polytechnics and colleges. The disturbing development noticed in this audit period was the proliferation of transactions in nature and in number, that were outside the Zimdef mandate, which the Permanent Secretary (Dr Mbizvo) directly or through his officers and ministry departments, requested and instructed Zimdef to fund from its cash resources.”

Mr Mandizvidza was not immediately available for comment while Dr Gandawa declined to discuss the matter.

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