HIGHER Education minister Amon Murwira yesterday urged Parliament to urgently review the National Manpower Advisory Council Act and tighten screws on the management of the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) to enhance accountability over funds under his ministry’s purview.
Murwira made the call when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education to speak on his ministry’s 100-day plan to transform the higher education sector.
by VENERANDA LANGA
He outlined several policy priorities that he will undertake including ensuring that the science, technology, engineering and mathematics module (STEM) is transformed from being a scholarship model supporting high school ‘A’ Level students with fees, to a manpower development programme as per its original mandate.
The Higher Education minister said the first step would be to amend and strengthen the National Manpower Advisory Council, a private body set up to advise the Ministry of Higher Education to ensure that the minister does not make unilateral decisions without getting a nod from the council on funds like Zimdef.
“The first thing we did after my appointment was to ensure there are no monetary releases done for Zimdef except for salaries and that a forensic audit should be done on the fund,” Murwira said while telling MPs that during his tenure in office he wants to operate on a clean sheet.
“We have also said let us ask for the strengthening of the National Manpower Advisory Council Act (article 48) so that there is no solo decision made by the minister and ensure that it cannot be violated, and the safest route is to amend it,” he said.
During the tenure of former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Zimdef was allegedly looted, with around $450 000 missing from the fund after Moyo made unilateral decisions on how it must be run.
Murwira also told MPs of other ambitious plans by his ministry, which will include establishment of a coal to fuels research programme, which he said will realise $1, 4 billion annually and needs a $5 billion investment, with the plant producing eight million litres liquid fuels and petroleum products daily. He said interested investors had already approached his ministry.
Murwira said the ministry would also conduct a survey to assess skills gaps as a basis for curriculum review, establish a National Space Agency and develop geospatial capability in critical growth areas such as agriculture, minerals, energy and health.
“We will undertake strategic alliances through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to increase students and staff accommodation, and rehabilitate water and sewer reticulation systems in all affected institutions within 100 days,” Murwira said.