Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials raided Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) offices yesterday as fresh corruption scandals rocked the distance-learning institution after it emerged vice-chancellor Primrose Kurasha and four senior managers allegedly gobbled close to $600 000, pampering themselves with gratuities despite the renewal of their contracts.
The money was reportedly taken from student fees at a moment part-time lecturers, examination markers and service providers had not been paid.
ZOU employees have also reportedly gone for close to a year without receiving allowances.
Yesterday, ZOU director of communications Ndai Nyamakura could not comment on the issue, saying those in charge had already left.
However, NewsDay is reliably informed that Kurasha, whose contract expired and was given a new three-year new mandate by President Robert Mugabe in June last year, was paid $203 580 on March 7 this year, while Nefias Mututumari, the information and communication technology manager, was paid $83 000.
This was the second time the gratuities were paid after former finance director Perpetual Masvikeni Ndekwere was paid $83 000 on October 4 2012, together with the university registrar Daniel Ndudzo.
Pro vice-chancellor Gabriel Kabanda walked away with a whopping $103 000.
“There is no policy on gratuities at the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education. It is also not there in the ZOU Act. In cases where gratuities are given in other companies, the person should have left the organisation. What is also suspicious is that the gratuities were claimed long after the officials’ contracts had been renewed,” a senior official at the university said yesterday.
“There is no council resolution and ministry involvement to pay the gratuities. There was also no ZOU council resolution on the method of calculation or rates they used to calculate these amounts.”
Ndekwere’s contract expired in June 2012, while Ndudzo and Kabanda’s contracts expired in November the previous year.
The former ZOU finance boss is currently on bail after she was picked up by police detectives from the Criminal Investigation Department Serious Fraud Squad on March 17 and appeared in court the following day for allegedly double claiming $6 000 from the university.
“The VC nicodemously sought the signature of the council chairperson to authorise the payments,” the official claimed.
Zimbabwe Media Commission chief executive Tafataona Mahoso was the ZOU council chairman before Mugabe appointed Christopher Samkange last July.
“They did not remit PAYE, totalling to $118 000, on the amounts, prompting the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to pick the anomaly during their tax investigations on ZOU,” the official said.
Seven Zimra officials yesterday swooped on the ZOU offices and raided Kurasha, acting finance director Garry Shoko and the human resources director Ernest Jaricha’s offices.
NewsDay could not establish the purpose of the raid, which was the second after a similar visit last Tuesday.
Kurasha and other managers were attending a strategic workshop in Harare last Tuesday, where Shoko was believed to have admitted the university was in the red, despite the huge claims by the managers.
The allegations were also contained in two petitions to Mugabe and the parent ministry by the workers last year.
ZOU has been in the media since 2010 over several corrupt activities reportedly perpetrated by Kurasha and Ndekwere.
These included allegedly prejudicing the parent ministry of about $700 000 in a staff medical insurance scam when the university overclaimed and did not pay back.
ZOU in 2011 also took a $3 million loan from a local bank to buy vehicles for managers and paid themselves hefty allowances, which among them, included several thousands of dollars for contact leaves that were never attended.
The university also has over five labour cases that have now been referred to the Supreme Court after they lost, but repeatedly appealed against judgment.
Three vehicles attached by the Deputy Sheriff two years ago over a labour case were rotting at an auctioneers’ premises.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has also been probing illicit deals at the university.