Hexco Operations Under Investigation
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) GOVERNMENT has set up a task force to probe the operations of the Higher Education Examinations Council and governance issues at the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development.This follows the publication of an article by The Herald a fortnight ago on how Hexco's credibility was threatened by a decision by Secretary for Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Dr Washington Mbizvo to allow an automotive precision mechanist to design, install and manage a database for the testing of tertiary students.
One person carries the entire exams database on memory sticks and CDs, meaning he can leak exams and issue diplomas to anyone.
Higher Education Deputy Minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa told Senate yesterday that his minister Dr Olivia Muchena appointed the task force to investigate Hexco and wider governance issues.
"The merger in late 2013 of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education with the former Ministry of Science and Technology Development, demanded careful rationalisation of both systems and programmes.
"This process is under my supervision having been mandated by the minister, Hon Dr Olivia N Muchena. In addition, we have set a task force led by the Deputy Minister to: provide a comprehensive assessment of governance issues, institute corrective measures where necessary and to look into the broader issues of the Hexco examination systems and the ministry as a whole," Dr Gandawa said.
Responding to Rushinga Senator Cde Damien Mumvuri (Zanu-PF) following presentation of the ministerial statement, Dr Gandawa said the task force was taking its duties seriously.
"As a ministry we are taking the matter seriously and the minister has mandated me to lead a team until we get to the bottom of this matter and we are not going to leave any stone unturned."
Dr Gandawa played down fears that Hexco was dysfunctional.
"Accepting the principle that there is no system that is 100 percent security watertight, it is not correct to say that the Hexco system is dysfunctional and has no security as has been alleged in some media reports," he said.
Dr Gandawa also spoke on the fate of Kwekwe Polytechnic principal Mr Joyce Mbudzi, who is doubling as acting director for Curriculum and Examinations since 2010.
Mr Mbudzi shuttles between Harare and Kwekwe every week as he balances work at the college and that at head office.
The Civil Service Commission ordered Mr Mbudzi to leave head office and return to Kwekwe on September 16, 2012, but the directive was ignored.
"The acting director Mbudzi has been in that acting capacity for some time and since we came in we raised concern that the students at Kwekwe Polytechnic might have been prejudiced in one way or the other and that he had to go back. That is why we now have a substantive director," said Dr Gandawa.
However, Dr Mbizvo told The Herald there was nothing wrong at Hexco. He also defended Mr Mbudzi's double deployment.
"The notion that Hexco database now is in the hands of one person as reported in The Herald, Monday 24 February 2014 is in fact reality and is commensurate with good practices elsewhere in the world. The only difference is that the chairman of Hexco can also access the said database," he said.
"Accordingly, this one person is given a password, which is only known to him and the chairman of the board and not anyone else."
He said in the past, nine data capturing officers had access to the database and this caused many problems.
Dr Mbizvo lauded Mr Francis Taivavashe, whom he appointed to single-handedly manage the database.
"The current internal official handling the password is Mr Taivavashe, the ICT manager in the ministry in the Department of Standards Development and Quality Assurance, and is normally vetted yearly by Government Security Systems. The ministry and indeed Government have invested heavily in training this officer in Germany, China, Mauritius and South Africa.
"It must be noted that Mr Taivavashe has developed the internal database for job-profiling at the Public Service Commission in the year 2003," he said.
"Therefore, it follows that the ministry did not need to go to the State Procurement Board for purposes of hiring a consultant when internally the expertise and the positions were there. The allegations of following laid down procedures by The Herald falls away or rather does not apply."
Copyright The Herald. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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