BEAM audit opens can of worms
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
MORE than $2 million meant for education assistance under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) was left unused owing to bungling by some school authorities, prejudicing thousands of poor pupils while several undeserving pupils, including children of rich people, benefited ahead of vulnerable and orphaned children.
This is contained in a 2014 audit report compiled by Auditor-General, Ms Mildred Chiri, on management of education assistance of Beam.
Ms Chiri noted that the then Minister of Labour and Social Services (Paurina Mupariwa MDC-T), during the inclusive Government, failed to properly supervise the donor funds resulting in the abuse and failure to fully use the fund. She noted that from 2009 to 2012, of the $45 million funds made available, $43 million was utilised leaving $2 million dormant, a situation which saw donors retaining their money.
“The underutilisation of donor support was due to failure by schools to submit request for assistance claim forms to Project Management Unit for onward transmission to Crown Agents/Unicef and also rejections by banks that were not re-deposited by PMU,” read the report.
“The rejections were due to errors in capturing the account numbers or account names by schools or PMU. The underutilisation of funds resulted in US$2 041 366 being retained by donors. Under-utilisation of donor funds resulted in fewer children benefiting than would have if the funds were fully utilised.”
It was noted that if the unutilised balance for 2009 and 2010 had been claimed by primary schools in rural areas charging $15 per term, 9 670 and 35 693 children would have benefited for the two years respectively.
Audit also noted that several undeserving pupils had their school fees paid under BEAM.
In its response management said: “The Ministry highlighted that in relation to selection, although isolated cases of undeserving cases benefiting from BEAM were either reported to PMU or unearthed through monitoring to large extent, the selection has been conducted above board with parents/guardians and other stakeholders reporting to be happy about the selection.”
Another anomaly noted by audit was the failure to submit attendance registers for pupils to PMU by those schools with beneficiaries after every term. “From a sample of 124 schools selected at random at PMU, I noted that none of the schools that I visited submitted attendance registers for the period under review.
“I also noted that 69 schools that I visited did not submit attendance registers to PMU but continued to be paid the next term’s fees,’ read the report.
“This could result in PMU paying fees for beneficiaries who would have dropped out of school.”
In its response, the Ministry said schools tended to submit attendance registers once at the end of the year and that payments were being made in the interests of orphans and vulnerable children.
Another anomaly noted by audit was that there was no monitoring and evaluation of Beam by PMUY.
“The PMU is supposed to conduct spot checks on schools to verify the suitability of beneficiaries, accuracy of attendance returns and composition of community selection committees and whether the funds are properly accounted for,” read the report.