By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
15 April 2014
Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) head Primrose Kurasha and four top officials have come under scrutiny over alleged fraudulent activities at the institution.
This week two newspapers reported how management at the distance learning facility have been claiming funds from the institution for personal gain while not paying tax.
A Tuesday NewsDay report fingered vice-chancellor Kurasha, information manager Nefias Mututumari, ex-finance director Perpetual Ndekwere, registrar Daniel Ndudzo, and pro-vice chancellor Gabriel Kabanda, in a scandal in which the four officials falsely claimed a total of $600,000 in gratuities.
Kurasha’s contract was renewed last year June and she received $203,580 in March as gratuities.
None of the officials was entitled to the money, given that their contracts had already been renewed, and that it is not part of ZOU’s policy to pay gratuities.
Ordinarily a gratuity is paid to an employee who is leaving, in return for service.
Another report in the state-run Sunday Mail revealed how Kurasha used $100,000 belonging to ZOU to charter a plane to ferry her ill husband to South Africa.
In 2011 the country’s anti-graft body launched a probe following a tip-off. That probe was suspended after the Auditor-General said they wanted to go through ZOU’s books first.
Stanford Chirindo, head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, said that investigations will resume once the national auditor has done its work.
“The probe is still on, but I can’t disclose the contents or the stage the investigation is at for reasons of confidentiality,” Chirindo told SW Radio Africa Tuesday.
Senior journalist Everson Mushava, who has covered the ZOU saga for different newspapers, told this station that allegations of financial irregularities at the state institution have been around for some years now.
A catalogue of irregularities raised against Kurasha’s administration included claims that university officials prejudiced the government of $700,000 in a staff medical insurance scam, when the university over-claimed and did not pay back.
In 2011 the university is said to have borrowed $3 million from a local bank to buy vehicles for managers, two years after a similar vehicle purchase.
The top managers are also accused of drawing thousands of dollars in allowances on the pretext that they were going on university teaching exchange programmes (contact leave), which they never did.
According to the Sunday Mail Kurasha also hired her husband as a ZOU consultant, and paid him thousands of dollars in fees.
Under Kurasha’s leadership ZOU also bought high-end flats in Harare’s Avondale suburb without the knowledge of the university’s workers whose pensions funded the purchase.
It is alleged that Dr Tafataona Mahoso signed most of the paperwork which facilitated vice-chancellor Kurasha’s financial transactions. Mahoso was the ZOU council chairperson until July last year.
“Kurasha appears to have been manipulating systems to her advantage with impunity.
“Besides strong suspicions that she may have bribed officials from the Anti-Corruption Corruption, there are reports that she is related to President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
“There are rumours that the new council at the university wanted to fire her but she threatened to write to President Mugabe alleging victimisation on the grounds that she is a woman,” Mushava said.
Mushava added that whether or not Kurasha finally gets fired or properly investigated will depend on how serious the ZANU PF regime is about fighting corruption.
“Otherwise there is nothing new in these latest reports or raids by the revenue authority. Previous raids have resulted in some sort of arrangement being reached, and corruption reports have not led to any sanctions,” he said.