Thursday, March 6, 2008

ZIMDEF, the Cashcow for the Higher Education Ministry

By Levi Mhaka

Published on December 20, 2006

Since the inception of the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) under the Manpower Development Act, No. 36 of 1994, the organization allegedly buys office furniture and top of the range motor vehicles for each minister on assumption of duty in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education.

On being deployed to another ministry, the Ministers are said to turn such furniture and motor vehicles to personal use. The Ministers also access ZIMDEF funds for personal fuel, hotel accomodation and other utilities in the name of visits to tertiary institutions around the country, yet its an expense under his Ministry.

So far, Ignatious Chombo, Herbert Murerwa, Sam Mumbengegwi (brother to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simbarashe Mubengegwi) and Stan Mudenge have been one time and incumbent Ministers of Higher and Tertiary Education since the creation of ZIMDEF.

One wonders what the capital expenditure (CAPEX) of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education is used for, if it cannot, among other things, finance the incumbent Minister's official furniture and motor vehicle requirements. There has not been clear separation of what is permissible under the Act for ZIMDEF to finance. Expenses for and by ZIMDEF's parent ministry fall under the Consolidated Revenue Fund (referred to in section 101 of the Constitution) as allocated by the Ministry of Finance in the budget. ZIMDEF has became another RBZ for the ministry of higher education - easy access to cheap funds.

Such looting of ZIMDEF by each incumbent line Minister is made possible because of the organization, management and structure of ZIMDEF. The enabling Act does not provide for a Board of Directors like most organized national institutions and within good corporate pratice.There is only the creation of an unecesaary National Manpower Advisory Council (NAMACO).

According to the relevant Act, NAMACO was established to advise the Minister on matters concerning the development of manpower. The ZIMDEF is run by a CEO who reports to the Trustee (of Public Funds) who is the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, who makes unilateral decisions. The CEO can together with the Minister misues and abuse the funds under their care. The Permanent Secretary in the line Ministry also abuses his authority by giving instructions to ZIMDEF to spend money in the context of being the 'Accounting Officer'.

Its funds are made out of the 1% levy on wages by the private sector. The financiers and consumers of manpower development (the private sector employers) have no say in how and where the funds are used except for the advise on the content of tertiary programmes through NAMACO. Nobody knows if the funds are not used for farming as well.

One wonders why the Comptroller and Auditor-General has not raised these issues with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education and ZIMDEF to stop abusing public funds.

For those who work for ZIMDEF, they have been turned into becoming 'civil servants'. Their conditions of service and periodical salary reviews can not be made without the approval of the Minister and his Permanent Secretary, who is jealous of them earning decent salaries. The two exercise their authority to the extent that the ZIMDEF consitions of service can not match those of similar parastatals. The Minister and Permament Secretary determine local staff conditions begrudgingly because they use wrong standards of measurement. If ZIMDEF staffers have to earn like civil servants, one wonders why it was weaned from the the civil service earlier on.

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