FRAUD accused higher and tertiary education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa was Wednesday forced to give assurances that government funds meant to finance the STEM programme were safe under ministry’s custody.
He was responding to questions from backbenchers during parliament’s question and answer session.
Gandawa and the ministry’s head Professor Jonathan Moyo have been accused of looting government funds from a department they run, charges the two have denied.
STEM is a government administered programme aimed at paying full school and boarding fees for all students in public schools who register for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Gandawa was asked by Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda why some beneficiaries of government’s free educational facility were allowed to come from other provinces to register under Matebeleland provinces.
Responding, Gandawa said this was caused by uneven population distribution patterns in which western provinces produced fewer A’ Level students pursuing science subjects.
“If we concentrate as the honourable member is saying, we will disadvantage quite a number of students who could benefit because in certain provinces, for example in Matabeleland North, there are a few high schools that offer the Sciences.
“So, we opened it up so that even those students who come from Matabeleland South where there are less schools that offer Sciences can go and access the courses from other provinces.
“So, it is open irrespective of where the student is coming from.”
But Magwegwe MP had a cheeky question to the deputy minister.
“On numerous occasions our government has been accused of creating ghost workers and ghost supporters in some cases,” Ndebele said to interjections from Zanu PF legislators.
“My question regarding the Zimdef fund which has also been bedevilled by similar allegations of corruption is; are there any policies that will safeguard this fund since the honourable minister has explained that it allows for the crisscrossing of students from one province to the other?
“Can the honourable minister assure us if his policies are waterproof in terms of safeguarding this fund from the creation of ghost students?”
Put in an unenviable position in which he was effectively called to plead his innocence, Gandawa said the process was transparent.
“The way the fund is executed in terms of the STEM programme is that the headmasters from respective schools, after registering the students, compile lists of students and submit those to the Zimdef offices,” Gandawa said.
“The officer responsible for that particular province will visit the school to cross check and verify whether indeed the students are indeed attending classes there or have been registered there before payment is made.
“There is a verification process that is done. The auditors also follow up to determine whether the disbursed funds are equivalent to the students that are learning.”