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Sep 20th
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Zimbabwe Nursing director in examination scandal


The Director of Nursing Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ms Cynthia Chasokela, has come under fire for allegedly abusing her office by making unilateral changes on nursing examinations without consulting key stakeholders such as the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe (NCZ) and the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (ZNA).Fears abound that this may compromise the country’s nursing standards.

Nurses fear scandal may compromise the country’s nursing standards

Nurses fear scandal may compromise the country’s nursing standards

Ms Chasokela has also been fingered in an alleged case of double-dipping in which she is said to have pocketed allowances for examination marking and clinic inspections from the ministry as well as NCZ.

Documents at hand show that Ms Chasokela has been withdrawing allowances and fuel coupons from both the ministry and NCZ since 2011.
In November 2013, she is alleged to have been paid US$6 000 for setting nurses’ examinations.

Documents in our possession show that she was paid US$1 765 for delivery expenses for the examinations from March 13 to 14, 2014.
Other claims made in March 2013 are lunch allowances for four people at a cost of US$10 for seven days; dinner for three at a rate of US$22 each and teas for four people at a cost of US$100 over seven days.

Ms Chasokela also allegedly claimed US$300 for printing packages of mid-wifery examination papers in Masvingo; US$2 046 for her and three other colleagues; US$2 374 for 2013 examination inspections and US$500 petty cash.

The total amount claimed was US$6 062.
Ms Chasokela, who is an ex-officio member of the NCZ, has sparked fury among nurses who have since urged the responsible minister to act to stop the rot. Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa and the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Brigadier-General Gerald Gwinji, could not be reached for comment.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Ms Chasokela proved fruitless as the initial conversation ended abruptly after her mobile phone cut off. Subsequent calls were not answered while a text message explaining the need to get her comment before going to print was also ignored. However, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Paul Chimedza said he was not aware of the case.

Information gathered indicates that Ms Chasokela has unilaterally usurped the powers of NCZ chairperson Mrs Irene Sambo — who is also the principal tutor at Harare Central Hospital.

According to the Health Professions Act (Chapter 27.19), Mrs Sambo should be the sole authority in making the final decisions of the council, but Ms Chasokela, in her capacity as a director in the ministry, is allegedly overriding the nurses’ council.

NCZ is a regulatory authority which governs the conduct of all nurses and is mandated to define and enforce ethical practice and discipline. It also evaluates and monitors the standards of qualifying examinations, courses and training for nurses.

The council has a membership of over 18 500 registered nurses.
However, authoritative sources at NCZ claimed: “The director (Ms Chasokela) in connivance with three members in the council have all the control of nursing examinations which are now being set at the director’s office instead of nurses’ council.

“This is done unprocedurally without the approval of the chairperson. The papers are in this team’s custody. They also determine who among them and their relatives transport the exams throughout the country at the council’s expense.”

To prove that all is not well between Ms Chasokela and NCZ, Mrs Sambo wrote a damning letter to the then Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Henry Madzorera, seeking intervention.

In the letter dated April 26, 2011, Mrs Sambo complained that Ms Chasokela had usurped the powers of NCZ.
“I write to seek clarification from your office on the authority of the director of nursing services in making final decisions on nurses’ council matters.

“I note with concern that whilst the nurses’ council has a chairman, the director of nursing services has no recognition for this junior position, presumably because it is held by an incumbent who is her junior in the Ministry of Health hierarchy.

“The director of nursing services has spearheaded the inspection of schools earmarked to start Midwifery and Mental Health programmes as she wishes, mostly on Saturdays and seemingly has granted authority for training to start without concurrence with the nurses’ council.
“It would also seem some nurses’ council staff report directly to her, a situation which has caused unnecessary conflict.”

Mrs Sambo, however, declined to comment, saying she “was not allowed to talk to the Press”.
It also emerged that NCZ’s frantic bid to approach a local firm to conduct a forensic audit for the 2012 accounts was blocked by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, who explained that her office had the prerogative of contracting private audit firms as provided for in terms of Section 39 and 81 (1) of the Public Finance Management Act.

The council’s accounts have not been audited since 2011.
“However, in instances where your organisation feels there is a warranted need to change the auditors (on professional grounds) you are kindly requested to approach the Comptroller and Auditor-General and have the matter looked into,” wrote Mrs Chiri.

“In addition to the above, negotiation of fees and any variation thereto is the responsibility of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.”
Ms Chasokela also torched a storm with the ZNA after she allegedly sidelined the key stakeholder to position herself for the post of president of the Eastern, Central and Southern African College of Nursing (ECSACON) — a regional nursing grouping — ahead of its elective congress slated for August 2014.