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Methodist Church School Defrauds ZESA Millions From Illegal Connection

Hartzell High School in Mutare defrauded ZESA of $1 347 310 after it illegally connected power and enjoyed the free service for two and a half years.

ZESA pulls the plug

The church-owned school was recently plunged into darkness after ZESA pulled the plug and disconnected its electricity as the school had allegedly bridged one of its main metres illegally.

School authorities including the headmaster are believed to have benefited from the crime which was only unearthed recently.

The Manica Post reports that Metre Number 368839 was undercharged by $1 347 310 for the period spanning from January 2020 to June 2022.

An investigation on June 30 found that the metre was partially bypassed, resulting in free electricity (30 000kw) being supplied to the school without being billed.

The school was fined an administrative charge of US$600. The new SDC cleared the $1,3m debt and the US$600 fine on Wednesday.

The new SDC was on Tuesday making frantic efforts to engage the power utility to get the school switched back on after having made the payments.

Massive looting and asset stripping

Three investigative audits conducted by external auditors, the ministry and the institution’s responsible authority – the United Methodist Church – exposed massive looting of financial and material resources at the school.

Feeling short-changed, parents then petitioned the Education Ministry.

The audits also showed that foreign currency transactions were unaccounted for, while voluminous expenditures had no supporting documents.

Bank reconciliations were also absent, while weak internal controls and risk management arrangements were exposed.

Under headmaster Shorwi Kawadza’s rein, payments were made without source documents, hence there was no evidence to suggest that such payments were genuine.

Employees’ salaries were also paid without attaching salary schedules, thereby raising the risk of paying ghost employees.

According to the audit report, Kawadza, through his Mutrue Company, received from the school payments amounting to more than $2 million for firewood. Kawadza had not declared his interest in the transaction.

The company’s registered directors are – Shorwi Kawadza, Janepher Kawadza and Mutsa Chanyoka, all of the same Hobhouse 2, Mutare address.

The school paid Mutrue Investments $238 541 in 2020 and $1 978 110 in 2021 for various items, mainly firewood, but there were no invoices to prove that the items purchased were indeed received by the school.

Headmaster, deputy suspended

The headmaster and his deputy, Godwin Mupuro, have since been suspended and transfer-listed as part of recommendations made by an investigative audit conducted by the parent ministry at the institution.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education suspended the two pending their transfers and investigations.

Two senior teachers – Mrs EZ Mufori and Mr Sande – are holding fort as acting headmaster and acting deputy headmaster respectively, pending the posting of substantive administrators at the end of this month.

An official hand-over-take-over which marked the end of the Kawadza era was done on Monday in the presence of the new School Development Committee (SDC) that was elected into office last week on Saturday.

Manicaland Provincial Education Director (PED), Mr Edward Shumba confirmed the latest development.

“I have checked and was told that the headmaster is currently on (forced) leave and there is somebody acting in his absence. The school opened well without the headmaster and from the brief, I got from the District Schools Inspector (DSI) in Mutasa, everything is in order.

“However, we are still working on the audit report findings. I haven’t received a full dossier as yet, as I have just assumed office. I am waiting for the then acting PED, who is currently out on official business, to brief me and chart the way forward,” said Mr Shumba.

Kawadza’s exit coincided with the dethronement of the Patrick Sangandira-led SDC that allegedly aided in the looting of school resources over the last two years.

The auditors noted significant governance issues in respect of procurement procedures and weak internal controls.

The majority of the purchases had no quotations, invoices, goods received notes and supporting documentation, making it difficult to determine whether the purchased goods were received by the school.

Hefty allowances, bribes and victimisation

Kawadza also clashed with parents for allegedly pampering the SDC with hefty allowances, fuel and Covid-19 allowances of US$900.

Three SDC officials made an overall claim of $1 517 464, thereby prompting some parents to petition the ministry, requesting for an immediate transfer of Kawadza to pave way for full investigations.

“Reference is made to our correspondence dated May 24, 2022, wherein concerned parents wrote to your office raising a number of allegations arising from a 2020-2021 adverse audit report at Hartzell High.

“Some learners who are perceived to be children of the vocal parents are now not free at this institution due to victimisation. As concerned parents, we hope the ministry can provide a temporary “safety net” to our learners by merely transferring the accused head rather than leaving him at the same institution.

“Our letter of May 24, 2022 was clear and straightforward that there is overt connivance among the headmaster, Centre Treasurer and SDC chairperson. This alliance, if left unchecked by way of a full investigating audit, may result in records and documents relating to public funds being distorted, corrected, amended and replaced.

“We, therefore, pray that an immediate transfer or at least a suspension from duty of this particular headmaster is appropriate action at this moment. Such action shall break the alliance of the trio,” reads part of the letter.

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Marian Shamhu

Marian Shava is a full-time journalist and social media enthusiast
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