Maputo — The massive fraud in the Mozambican Ministry of Education lasted for six years and cost the country around 144 million meticais (about 4.8 million US dollars), according to the Minister, Augusto Jone.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Jone said the fraud had come to light in December 2012, and he had personally called in the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) and the General Inspectorate of Finance to investigate.
The fraud took the form of duplicating wage sheets for staff at the ministry headquarters every month, and draining the excess money into parallel bank accounts controlled by corrupt officials in the Ministry’s finance department.
This had been going on since 2006, Jone said. The preliminary estimate of the sums stolen – 144 million meticais – would be enough to build a secondary school from scratch.
“Investigations are under way at an accelerated pace”, stressed the Minister. “There are officials who have been accused of involvement in the scheme, and they have been isolated from the system”.
There were four suspects, he added. Some had been involved in setting the fraudulent scheme up, in 2006, while others had been recruited into it later. Jose added that the suspects “are collaborating in the investigations, and we think that we will soon know exactly what happened”.
An anonymous, highly detailed letter on the fraud, which was circulated to the media, claimed that the key figure was an official named Sende, in charge of processing the wages. When the fraud was discovered, he vanished – but Jone said he has now reappeared, and is collaborating with the authorities.
The fraud only affected the wages component of the central part of the education budget. Money for schools is all decentralized to provincial and district level, and Jone assured the press that the provincial and district budgets were untouched by the fraud.