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Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Ministry senior officials, including Permanent Secretary Dr Washington Mbizvo, paid themselves allowances of up to U$2 700 a day for attending Hexco exams-related meetings, The Herald can reveal. The three meetings were for standards development, pre-ratification and ratification of exams at the Management Training Bureau in Harare at the end of last month.

Indications are that Dr Mbizvo was paid US$2 000 for attending the pre-ratification meeting.

He was then paid US$5 400 for attending the two-day ratification meeting at a rate of US$2 700 per day.

Indications are that he did not attend all six days of the meetings and that Treasury paid for transport and accommodation.

At the same time, some of the other officers who attended six days of meetings shared just US$3 500 among them.

In all, the ministry spent slightly more than US$500 000 on the meetings.

Permanent secretaries earn at most US$6 000 monthly, which is less than what Dr Mbizvo earned for less than a week of meetings that he is required to attend in his official capacity.

The lowest-paid civil servant gets US$375 monthly, including allowances.

Further, indications are that Cabinet-approved overseas travel allowances for Government officials are less than what Dr Mbizvo was paid for attending meetings in Harare.

Dr Mbizvo’s mobile phones were not reachable yesterday, with sources saying he was in South Africa.

Higher Education Minister Dr Olivia Muchena said, “I am not aware of those huge figures but last week I requested several things, including documents pertaining to the issues you are raising. We are doing a comprehensive system-wide assessment of everything happening in the ministry.”

Dr Muchena has already ordered investigations into corporate governance at Hexco after it emerged that Dr Mbizvo appointed a precision mechanist to create and manage the examinations database for all polytechnics, a development that could compromise their credibility.

Findings have been submitted to Government, but were still to be made public.

Dr Mbizvo attended the meetings in question as chair of Standards Development and Quality Assurance and permanent secretary.

His representative, who also attended the same two meetings, was paid US$3 800 in allowances. It could not be established why both the chair and his representative attended the same meetings and were paid allowances for that.

Other senior ministry and Hexco officials got US$700 apiece for the ratification meeting.

Seven secretaries and administration officers who attended the four-day pre-ratification meeting took home a combined US$3 500.

Treasury paid out US$55 000 for accommodation and transport, and the total cost of the meetings was US$508 016,37, including fuel, office supplies, aertising, aocacy and allowances.

Meanwhile, there is discontent among polytechnic lecturers over the management of tertiary exams, and their representative body last week wrote to Dr Muchena registering their concerns.

The College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe warned of a “looming crisis in the administration of Hexco examinations” and blamed the situation on corruption.

The letter was copied to Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda, and other senior Government officials.

“We refer to paragraph 5.0 of the report on modularisation which sought to enlighten you on the magnitude and extent of the unethical and corrupt practices by Hexco with respect to payment of examiners and non-examiners.

“Marking fees tend to favour supervisors. This disparity between what those in the administration are paid and what lecturers take home is too big. For instance, principals would pocket US$4 000, course co-ordinators US$1 500, discipline co-ordinators US$2 000 and other non-lecturing staff responsible for housekeeping issues like water and meal tickets US$1 600 while lecturers (got) US$200 depending on the number of scripts marked.

“Hon Minister, the rot is still obtaining. At the just ended MarchApril 2014 marking session, most examiners got less than US$100 while the so-called supervisors pocketed amounts as quoted above, and this is disturbing,” reads the Colaz letter.

They went on: “Lecturers request that they be paid in cash for teas and lunches. The justification is that the quality of meals served in most of the institutions is poor and may not be worth US$1 and yet these institutions claim US$5 per meal from Hexco.”

The lecturers want their allowances and expert fee reviewed so that they take home at least US$800.

“What justifies the US$800 is the fact that lecturers mark, process the mark sheets and put the final grades within the timelines set by the ministry. We had these allowances in the past and we wonder why they were taken away from us without reasonable cause.

“Our concern is that the Hexco system has not been observing the tenets of good corporate governance, viz, transparency, accountability, responsibility, and equity. There has been rampant looting of public funds since the year 2011 by a few including principals who are supposed to be custodians of the system while lecturers who do the real job of marking languish in abject poverty.”

Dr Muchena said her ministry was looking into the issues Colaz raised.

“We are looking at more fundamental issues and I would not want them written about in the Press at the moment,” she said.

Source : The Herald