EDITORIAL COMMENT: School audits funding needs rethink

17 Nov, 2015 - 00:11 0 Views
EDITORIAL COMMENT: School audits funding needs rethink

The Herald

ZIMPAPERSWHEN the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education announced the launch of school audits last June, the move was welcomed because people felt there was need for public accountability in our institutions. Parents have long complained about the abuse of resources at schools chiefly by some heads and people seconded to school development associations who have been using parents’ hard-earned monies as slush funds for their private, corrupt purposes.

It will be recalled that in the same breath Government outlawed the SDAs and sought to replace them with school development committees. The nationwide school audits were this year expected to cover over 80 percent of the 8 179 schools in the country, of which 5 805 are primary schools, while 2 374 are secondary schools.

We note that the exercise has so far been producing results and unearthing massive irregularities and abuse of funds at Government school institutions so much so that the exercise has been viewed with envy by parents with children at private or trust schools.

In the latter, abuse is reportedly rife with those elected to run them given carte blanche discretionary power. However, while we acknowledge the idea and momentum the schools audits has generated so far, we are worried by reports that schools are being asked to fund the exercise.

The worry is well placed.

First, there is the obvious anomaly of schools having to pay for the exercise because it means they have to raise that money somewhere, in these difficult times. We know only too well who will eventually shoulder that burden: the parent. Connected to this is the apparent haphazard and uncoordinated manner such payments have been made as some schools have paid, in differing amounts, while others have not.

In the absence of clear communication, this can only increase the chances for corruption.

The second worrying aspect relates to reports that schools have to provide the auditors with allowances as they go about their work. One can only guess what this entails. There is a risk that a process that seeks to weed out corruption could end up corrupted. There is also the question of how the ministry planned and rolled out this programme. It would seem that this bright idea was implemented without adequate planning in terms of financial resources.

In ordinary times such an exercise would be bankrolled by Government from resources the Ministry would have applied for and given as a budget vote. Now, how did we come to this?

Better planning will in future ease the challenges that have bedevilled the exercise so far. We reiterate that schools audits are a noble idea which will instil a culture of accountability and foster real development in schools and prove one less headache for parents.

Faced with various challenges, parents do not want to be burdened with further financial obligations which do not go for the intended purposes while corrupt heads and SDCs officials enjoy their filthy lucre.

It is heartening that the audits underscore that school development funds are indeed statutory funds as defined under the Public Finance Management Act Chapter 22:19, Section 18 (1) (b).

We, however, remain deeply worried that the ministry insists on — and is empowered by the Education Amendment Act 2006 to demand — payment for audits by schools.

As a matter of record, the law provides that all registered schools are directed to provide for the ministry’s audit expenses in their budgets; that audit fees will be advised on an annual basis for the various schools categories and the payment of audit fees be channelled to the respective provinces in liaison with District Education Officers.

This is a rather unfortunate sanction which must be done away with for its lack of sensitivity and morality, especially at this stage. The Government has to be a lot smarter and more creative than that in raising funding for such these audits under the current economic malaise.

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