EAGLESVALE, an upmarket private school in Harare, has been rocked by allegations of embezzlement of funds running into tens of thousands of dollars allegedly masterminded by senior officials working in cahoots with its headmaster Naison Tirivavi.
According to concerned parents, the school board discovered that Tirivavi was irregularly withdrawing funds for personal or unintended use as well as to bankroll the Dutch Reformed Church of Zimbabwe (DRCZ).
These activities were taking place against the backdrop of discussions to find new trustees for the school after DRCZ had indicated it wanted to relinquish that role.
In one letter written by Edward Madza, the chairperson of the school board to parents, it is stated that “the Board of Governors was in talks with the Dutch Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe (RCZ) regarding issues to do with Trusteeship.
However, whilst these talks were taking place, the Board of Governors discovered that the high school headmaster, Tirivavi, was irregularly withdrawing funds from the school account for his personal benefit.”
“He was doing so through unauthorised encashment of fictitious leave days. In the first instance, on February 20, 2013 he processed an encashment of 120 days giving himself a gross amount of US$30 360 and a net amount of US$18 023 which was transferred into his bank account.”
Madza further stated that the board suspended Tirivavi and started disciplinary hearings, which he however defied with the support of the RCZ and went on to process another encashment of 150 days on May 22 2013, giving him a gross amount of US$37 950 and a net of US$22 197.
“However, the board was swift and managed to stop this second withdrawal before the bank had processed it. Tirivavi then rushed to the RCZ for protection. He started giving the RCZ some money from the school funds and the RCZ interfered with… the disciplinary process,” wrote Madza.
The alleged misappropriation of funds appears to have continued well into 2014 as suggested by payment vouchers allegedly authorised by Tirivavi to the RCZ as well as new board members.
In one such voucher dated November 3, Tirivavi allegedly authorised the payment of US$76 000 to the RCZ from the coffers of both the senior and junior schools allegedly without the approval of the school board. Another voucher suggests Tirivavi also authorised payments of US$100 each and 40 litres of fuel for board members who attended a meeting.
These payments were described as grossly irregular by some former board members and parents who insisted that at most, an individual would only be given 20 litres but never got any cash payments from the school.
However, Tirivavi denied any wrong-doing in several interviews and interactions with this paper claiming that as the new owners of the school, the RCZ was entitled to the payments.
“The payments were in fact levies which the RCZ is entitled to as owners of the school. They are entitled to a maximum of 12,5% of the fees collected. We also paid lawyers from school funds because they represent the school,” Tirivavi said in an interview at Eaglesvale in Harare last Wednesday.
He also defended the payments to board members saying they were entitled not just to the cash but also fuel.
Tirivavi claimed there are former board members who were bringing up malicious allegations against him in order to tarnish his reputation as an act of revenge after failing to land certain contracts with the school.
“Some of these people do not have children in the senior school but in our preparatory school and this is all an act of sour grapes because they failed to land tenders to supply the school, which they used to have,” said Tirivavi.
He, however, did not reveal names or what the tenders were for. The parents’argument that the RCZ are merely trustees who should not be receiving any payments from the community school is supported by another letter containing details of a 2010 meeting held by the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, Dutch Reformed Church of Zimbabwe and school board where it was agreed Eaglesvale be run as a community school even though there is still confusion whether it is run by RCZ or the community.
“Eaglesvale School is an interdenominational community school and not a typical church school anymore which is run by parents through a board and a school development association,” reads part of the minutes of the meeting held at the Dutch Reform Church on November 22 2012. The school fees structure is as follows: boarders pay US$3 600, day scholars at the high school US$2 300 and junior school pupils pay US$1 450 per term.