Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor
THE Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche) is spending thousands of dollars of public money on five-star hotel breakfast, lunch and drinks for workers since January this year when Professor Kuzvinetsa Peter Dzvimbo was appointed chief executive.
An investigation by The Herald has shown that Zimche is racking up huge bills buying breakfast, lunch and drinks for a staff complement of between 30 and 35 at a top Harare hotel scuttling efforts by the Government to reduce expenditure.
A source at Zimche described much of the spending as “wasteful and profligate.”
“Zimche is buying breakfast and lunch for 30 or so people two or three times a week since January,” the source said.
“It can be more or less, but at least every week, Zimche is buying expensive breakfast and lunch from a top Harare hotel (name supplied). The real issue is why would the council buy food for civil servants who are at their work station.
“If it was buying food for council meetings which involve outsiders, it would make sense and not for staff stationed at Zimche.”
Documents and information obtained through sources indicate that on one occasion early in January, Zimche spent $7 000 on hotel breakfast, lunches and drinks ordered from a top-rated Harare hotel. Calculations by The Herald indicate that Zimche spends about $14 000 a week if it treats its staff to hotel lunches twice a week and up to $21 000 if it does so thrice.
Zimche roughly spends $56 000 a month if it buys hotel meals twice a week and up to $84 000 if does so thrice a week.
This means Zimche has spent a whooping $280 000 to $420 000 treating staff on hotel meals between January and May this year.
“This is gobbling huge amounts of money,” said the source.
“This has serious implications for our Zimche budget.”
In a recorded telephone interview, Prof Dzvimbo confirmed the development.
He, however, defended his position saying it was a way of motivating employees who work overtime.
“We do that to our staff where they have extra work. We usually do that on Saturdays and Sundays when they work overtime because Government no longer pays,” said Prof Dzvimbo.
Asked on whether the decision was sanctioned by the Zimche board, Prof Dzvimbo said:
“These are some of the things that we will have to tell the board later.”
Several Government departments have in the past faced harsh criticism for treating executives to relaxing breaks at opulent country retreats, staying in some of the world’s most luxurious holiday resorts and splashing out on items from iPads to squandering thousands on hairstyles.
A number of high ranking civil servants have been sacked and some convicted after making fraudulent payments or abusing public funds.
The Herald can also disclose that Prof Dzvimbo received an iPhone worth nearly US$4 000 after approval by the Zimche board council.
“As we speak right, workers here don’t have laptops to do Zimche work but Prof Dzvimbo has a top of the range laptop and iPhone,” said a source.
“His salary is pegged in US dollars and I hear he is still getting salary payments in US dollars. Maybe he negotiated for this, but what does all this means to a nation that is struggling to get foreign currency. It is too much and we need to set things straight.”
Prof Dzvimbo, who succeeded Prof Ngara, is an accomplished scholar and higher learning administrator who once served as the first Vice Chancellor of the Zimbabwe Open University and was Rector of the African Virtual University.
Apart from working as a vice principal of a teachers’ college in Zimbabwe, Prof Dzvimbo, has taught at universities in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa and the USA.
He worked in a number of African countries in the field of e-learning and teacher education. Prof Dzvimbo has worked as a consultant for a number of NGOs and multilateral organisations.
Zimche is an educational council mandated with promoting and coordinating education provided by institutions of higher education.
The council also regulates the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examinations, academic qualifications and research in institutions of higher education.
Zimche was created through an Act of Parliament Chapter 25:27 which was promulgated in 2006.
The act establishes Zimche and the procedures for the registration and accreditation of institutions of higher education.