Head, salaries officer $870k fraud trial begins

Fungai Lupande Court Reporter
Eaglesvale Senior School headmaster and salaries officer yesterday pleaded not guilty to embezzling over $870 000 after they allegedly encashed their leave days and awarded themselves allowances without approval of the board.

The trial of headmaster, Naison Tirivavi (60), and salaries officer Cheryl Botha (52) started yesterday before Harare magistrate Ms Lucy Ngwari.

They are facing 48 counts of fraud and their trial was separated from their co-accused Charles Shokobishi (57), who was the bursar. Botha, who is a self actor, told the court in her defence that everything she did at the school was at the instruction of Tirivavi.

“I was never a signatory to the school bank accounts,” said Botha. “I did not steal school funds and there is no possibility that I could steal the money because all my work was checked by the credit controller.”

On the other hand, Tirivavi, who is represented by lawyer Mr Peter Kumbawa said he never connived with anyone. “Indeed, he authorised payments which were accompanied by paperwork free of fraudulent suspicion,” said Mr Kumbawa.

“Accused did not benefit from any funds found in Botha’s bank account.” The complainant in the matter is Eaglesvale Senior School’s board vice-chairman Mr Willard Gonde.

The prosecutor Mr George Manokore alleged that Eaglesvale Senior School’s board members held a meeting to look at the school’s financial records. It is alleged that inconsistencies in cash-in lieu payments of leave to non-teaching and teaching staff was discovered.

In 2013, the board instructed the accused not to encash leave days. A forensic audit was carried out and it was established that Botha encashed her leave days.

It was discovered that Botha allegedly entered varying amounts on other staff members’ cash-in lieu of leave on payroll sent for authorisation.

Once the authorisation was obtained from the headmaster, Botha would then alter the electronic payroll to have cash-in lieu of leave allocated back to her pay. Botha allegedly effected payment through her CBZ account 008920804980033.

It is alleged that Botha overstated her bonus from 2011 to 2014, accumulating to $518 007, 58. Tirivavi, who doubled as a Mathematics and Thinking Skills teacher, authorised and approved his cash in lieu of leave days amounting to $135 377, 50.

He also received unapproved termly allowances amounting to $13 366 without the board’s knowledge. Tirivavi allegedly swindled the school of $148 743.

The bursar, Shokobishi, is accused of conniving with Tirivavi and receiving $19 903 for 225 leave days, contrary to his employment contract.

Eaglesvale School lost $873 840, 56 and nothing was recovered.

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