MOESD rapped for irregular funds diversion

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The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday lambasted the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) for transferring around P63 million from the junior schools ongoing projects fund to finance the operational costs of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) in the last financial year.

The amount was transferred directly without taking it through the tertiary funds account. Presenting before the committee last Friday, MoESD permanent secretary, Grace Muzila said they took the money because of delays in the approval of the institution's request for funds.  Muzila also pleaded with the PAC to push for changes in some of the procedures as they do not allow for creativity.

She argued that it is not right for some projects to lag behind while others have under-utilised funds. However, PAC member Guma Moyo said it is important that rules are followed and funds are used for the purposes they were allocated for.

"The transfer should not have been made directly. The money should have gone through the tertiary fund for purposes of transparency," he said. In addition, the committee, chaired by MP Nehemiah Modubule found that the handling of public accounts, collection and general financial information was marred by errors. During her ministry's submissions, Muzila kept on consulting members of her staff as a number of things did not add up.

She was scrutinised for, among other things, failure to report how much beneficiaries of government scholarship loans owe the ministry. In addition, the system did not reflect active repayment of the loans despite the fact that she painted a rosy picture of loan recovery.  "The loans are being paid back. Every month something is deposited in the account," she said. However, she ended up acknowledging; "we have had challenges because people were not capacitated on the repayment process".

The MoESD is owed close to P4 billion by students who benefitted from government sponsorship. Some of the debts are as old as 1973, the PAC learnt.  Modubule encouraged the ministry to tighten its accounting system so that no student or employee is paid when they are not supposed to get money from the MoESD.

This is the 50th meeting of the PAC and the first ever to be held publicly in the history of the national assembly.

The meetings examine accounts and statements of government departments and ministries, and will run until May 31st.When the PAC opened in early May, Modubule explained that the committee's meetings are held in public to enhance the committee's "oversight role, the accountability process and to promote public participation."

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