The police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Bulawayo is investigating an alleged textbook scam at Milton High School where development funds amounting to $7 449 were allegedly stolen in November last year, NewsDay has learnt.
Sources at the school told NewsDay that unnamed administration officials at the school allegedly misappropriated $7 449 from the school development committee (SDC)’s coffers on the pretext they were purchasing textbooks for the science department.
CID national spokesperson Detective Inspector Augustine Zimbili confirmed on Friday that CID in Bulawayo were investigating the scam.
“Yes I confirm that we are investigating a case at Milton High School where it is alleged that science books were acquired in unclear circumstances. As of now I can not divulge how far we have gone as that would jeopardise our investigations,” said Zimbili.
According to sources, three top administration staff at the school and in the SDC were the main suspects.
Sources alleged the three connived and made unprocedural arrangements to withdraw $7 449 from the SDC account on the pretext that they wanted to purchase school textbooks.
It is alleged that the money was withdrawn from the bank without the school committee members’ knowledge. Normally, the committee was supposed to approve the withdrawal and purchasing of the books but all that was not done.
“After the money was withdrawn from the bank, we believe these people took one textbook from the school and went to photocopy and reproduced 300 copies and when we cross-checked the copies we noticed that some of them had the school stamp” said the source.
The suspects are alleged to have then invoiced the photocopied textbooks to the tune of $7 449.
Sources said according to their findings if the textbooks were photocopies, they would cost far less than the amount demanded by the three, making it a clear case of fraud.
“The most worrying issue is that the supplier of those textbooks was a top SDC person.
“If these books were photocopied, we have a running machine which was donated by President Robert Mugabe last year. They should have used that machine instead of spending so much money somewhere else” said the disgruntled source.
Government auditors were allegedly alerted about the issue and they visited the school.
It is alleged that they proved the money could not be accounted for and even the school treasurer Fila Lamula was not aware of how the money was withdrawn and used.
When contacted, Lamula declined to comment saying he feared to be sued.
“I do not want to be sued. For me to disclose everything, you must tell me your sources then I will know that this is not a set-up to throw me into trouble.
“You may check records with a constable Makani who compiled the report at Criminal Investigation Department (CID) fraud section,” he said.
Sources said some disgruntled members of the community made a report to the police leading to the arrest of the SDC chairman Kizito Musekwa who was briefly detained and released while the headmaster Misheck Ngwenya and his deputy Nosizi Muleya were called for questioning at the CID fraud section in Bulawayo.
Ngwenya confirmed that last year unclear transactions involving the amount stated were done by one of the SDC top members without the approval of SDC committee.
He said the top member allegedly withdrew the money from the bank purporting to use it for the purchase of the textbooks
“We heard that the bank phoned us when the money was withdrawn. We did not know anything about it and we do not normally take part in the committee’s financial affairs. We could not even act against that because we thought it was for the good of the school. We were surprised to later learn that the top SDC member was in fact the supplier of those books. Other members of the committee were not happy about that and made a report to the police” said Ngwenya.
Ngwenya said after the matter was reported to the police, statements were taken from them but the problem was that there was no complainant at the moment.
He said the school was still to convene a meeting to appoint its plaintiff on the matter so as to allow legal proceedings to begin.
The ministry’s audit department has been asked to produce an audited statement on the issue to establish the scam and pave way for the criminal case to be taken to court.
SDC vice-chairman Giyani Moyo declined to comment and referred this reporter to the school head for comment. SDC chairman Musekwa was unreachable for comment.