By Staff Reporter
Following a verbal and written confession by a principal at a Primary school in Swakopmund (Vrede Rede PS), admitting that she has used school funds for own use, the Anti-Corruption Commission unit at the coastal town zoomed in on her and she was subsequently arrested this week by the ACC at Swakopmund.
This case has been dragging on for more than a year and according to Inspector Walter Kurz, chief investigation officer at the ACC’s Swakopmund branch, they were only awaiting feedback from the Prosecutor General’s office in order to take action.
This unfortunate scenario started last year, after the schoolboard at Vrede Rede Primary supposedly requested financial reports from the headmaster, Ms Lizette Fischer (now Fischer-Lukas), regarding a Grade 7 tour which was conducted during March 2018.
According to our sources the principal delayed the process intentionally, having all kinds of excuses for months. However after too much pressure from the Board, she initially gave in and admitted her wrongdoing. The admission of guilt transpired during October/November last year. The matter was then presented to the Erongo Regional office (Education) by the school board.
As per our sources the Regional Office then launched their own investigation and their audit investigation revealed that foul play was indeed involved.
The Regional office’s investigation allegedly also exposed that “soft loans” were granted over a period of time by the principal to staff members (teachers) from the school’s coffers.
It is also assumed that Fischer was not acting alone in the embezzlement of the school funds and that some other teachers at the school might also have been involved, however she took full responsibility for the misconduct.
At a meeting afterwards between the Regional office and the schoolboard, schoolboard members were apparently informed that the principal indicated that she will pay back the money (±N$20 000) over a period of six months and that she (principal) will be charged accordingly.
However, according to our sources, no evidence of the headmaster paying back any money is detected until now and a disciplinary hearing was only conducted after the principal resigned during early November this year. The Regional office apparently noted initially then that the case is now out of the school boards’ hands and that they will “take it further from there”, but apparently no feedback whatsoever was received from them, further noting that they have only gotten word that the said principal is apparently experiencing “financial difficulties”, thus cannot afford to pay back the money for now.
On Monday, 9 September 2019 The Patriot wrote to Education Permanent Secretary, Sanet Steenkamp, asking her if she was aware of this scenario and what her take on such an incident is; she responded more than a month later.
The Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Absalom Absalom, remarked that “the Ministry is aware of the allegations and a disciplinary committee was appointed and that mitigation took place, but in the meantime the principal resigned with the last working date 31 December 2019.”
Meanwhile the school board and parents of the school, which is situated in the coastal town’s Mondesa suburb, whom are relatively lower- and middle-income earners, are happy that at last this sad chapter in their school’s history can be finalised.
At least four of the parents this publication has spoken to, noted that they are sure that the principal is having close ties with some people in high places at the Regional office, thus the delay and foot-dragging to finalise the case.
This publication was also informed that more cases of embezzlement of school funds might be revealed, come the start of the hearing.
The principal was released on N$1000 bail and the case was postponed until 20 February 2020.