The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
INFIGHTING has rocked the School Development Committee (SDC) of Coghlan Primary in Bulawayo amid allegations that some members are awarding themselves major supply tenders without following laid down procedures.
So intense are the fights that the SDC chairperson, Mr Shelton Sithole walked out of an executive meeting in March and has refused to attend any meetings ever since, in protest over the manner in which the school is being run. Sources at the school allege that the head, Mrs Sijabulisiwe Nyathi now prefers to work with the SDC vice-chairperson, Mr Learnmore Mugani.
“A lot is happening at Coghlan that even if the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) investigates surely there will be a number of arrests.The chairperson, committee member and the treasurer of the SDC have been sidelined from all SDC procurement and finance decisions with the vice-chairperson running his own show. The secretary has been rendered helpless as she is a teacher at the same school reporting under the same administration.
No SDC meeting has been conducted despite several calls by the chairman, with the head and vice-chairperson going ahead with the decision making on all SDC related issues including hiring of employees as well as reassigning SDC employees to several positions on their own without consultation,” said the source.
The infighting at one point reportedly attracted the office of the Bulawayo provincial education director (PED), Mrs Olicah Kaira, who sat down the school’s authorities in a bid to resolve the impasse.
“The district schools inspector and the office of the PED have sat down with the head and the SDC committee trying to solve these problems among them suspected procurement flaws and misuse of funds, but it seems this was all in vain. At one point the SDC bank account was frozen by the chairman, suspecting that there was massive abuse of funds but the vice- chairperson and the head connived to have the account reactivated and in the process removed the chairman from being a signatory without the consent of the SDC executive meeting and with no resolution,” said the source.
In a letter written to other SDC members by the chairperson dated 22 September, he reveals that due to the irregularities at the school he had since instructed their bank to freeze one of their accounts.
“In discovering that our school head and vice-chairperson have decided to work outside meeting resolutions of all our meetings, I have instructed FBC not to accept any transactions from Coghlan without the signature of all the eight SDC members. This has been done to protect the parents’ funds and return the school to normalcy and sanity.
“Let us go back to the drawing board and work as a team, implement previous meeting resolutions as agreed then we can move forward. Currently, the school does not have a bursar, accounts clerk and a driver. The SDC is crippled and the head together with our vice-chair have taken advantage of this gap to make unilateral decisions which will be detrimental to the school,” reads part of the letter.
Contacted for comment, the chairperson, Mr Sithole while not confirming the allegations on misuse of funds admitted that there was infighting among their committee revealing that when he tried to raise a red flag on these he was rebuked leading to him walking out of an executive meeting and subsequently being elbowed out of the committee.
“What I can say is that I am supposed to be the chairperson of that committee but for some reasons I have been elbowed out because it seems the school head prefers working with my deputy. In March I walked out of an executive meeting when my attempts to expose irregularities in how the school was administered were rebuked.
“Since then I have been removed as a signatory in the SDC account, my name now just appears as the chairperson but in reality I am not the chairperson any more. I tried to advise them on what the law says regarding procurement but I was blatantly ignored which is why I have decided to dissociate myself with Coghlan Primary SDC,” said Mr Sithole.
He revealed that during his tenure at the helm of the SDC he had noted a number of procurement irregularities which needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“I have proof of some goods that were delivered without the necessary paperwork, which the SDC was forced to pay for, in most cases I flatly refused to sign off those payments, which is why at the end of the day I was elbowed out,” he said.
Mr Mugani on the other hand refuted the allegations that he was working in cahoots with the school head saying he was a victim of circumstances where all he had advocated for was progress so as to allow the school to function.
“I am not allowed to talk to the media, my chairperson is the one who can comment on this matter but what I must point out is that I have always been about progress and putting the school in a development trajectory. In all my operations I have never been involved in any corruption, there is no company I have seconded and let alone breaking any regulations at all,” said Mr Mugani.
Efforts to get a comment from the school head were fruitless.