THE Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered the government to disclose the outstanding amounts owed to students on bilateral scholarships, after the debt ballooned to $1,2 million.
BY VENERANDA LANGA/TINOTENDA MUNYUKWI
In a report presented to Parliament last week, the Paurina Mpariwa-led committee revealed that in 2017, the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry struggled to pay the $1,2 million in stipends for students in foreign countries, forcing parents to chip in.
“The audit observed that the ministry did not disclose outstanding stipends for students on bilateral scholarships amounting to $1 221 500, and the ministry indicated that it was facilitating placement of students in foreign universities on a cost-sharing arrangement with such universities,” the PAC report said.
“Treasury was expected to meet the difference, but disbursements were erratic, resulting in the ministry requesting parents and guardians to meet the difference, but they stopped disclosing the debt in their books.”
Parliament said failure to disclose the debt could have resulted in misstating of the outstanding stipends to the students, and consequently misleading Treasury when making releases.
The committee said government must meet its obligation of paying stipends to students on bilateral scholarship arrangements as failure to do so caused untold suffering to the Zimbabwean students.
“Government normally targets children from less privileged backgrounds for the scholarships. The committee noted with concern that some students ended up engaging in prostitution and drug abuse, much to the discredit of the country’s image,” the PAC report said.
The Higher Education ministry was also said to be failing to recover loans amounting to $201 344 from the Innovation and Commercialisation Fund of 2014 and 2015. The fund was established in 2002 to fund scientific research, inventions and innovations of national importance.
“The fund failed to meet its intended objectives due to failure to recover loans amounting to $201 344,”the report said.
Beneficiaries were supposed to start servicing the loans six months after receiving them, but only one beneficiary paid back $1 000. The committee said there was no due diligence done by the ministry before disbursing the loans to beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) owes $100 million in school fees arrears, contributing to more than 50% of children being chased out of school, a senior government official has said.
Speaking during commemorations of the Day of the African Child, principal director in the Labour and Social Welfare ministry, Simon Masanga said: “We are sitting on a debt of $100m in school fees arrears under Beam, but we are on a budget of $20m per year for which money is only being channelled to the payment of examination fees.”