Is Zimbabwe's e-nurse recruiting scandalous?

By Robert Ndlovu | 28 Nov 2019 at 09:13hrs
Following an outcry over the selection process of student nurses at Mpilo and UBH Central hospitals that were published by this paper, the Ministry of Health and Child and Care (MOHCC) claimed that they had added a few more students from the region according to an article that appeared in The Chronicle on 11 October , 2019. According to that report, 13 nursing schools in the region recruited 34 percent of their students from the capital, Bulawayo contributed 20 percent, Masvingo 6.3 percent, Midlands 8.4 percent while two percent each were enrolled from Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.

At one point a group of potential applicants gathered at Mpilo to seek answers as to why people from this region where short-changed when it came to the selection process. After that, a group of volunteers set up a group online to collect and help candidates with the application process. This was a great idea indeed, but to some, this was an opportunity to strike gold by duping potential and unsuspecting applicants

More drama has since taken place as more and more desperate applicants have been conned via the "registration" fees by "middlemen". And the Ministry has NOT made it any easier for the applicants as their website through which applications are made has been having constant problems.

The art of the con or scam - Someone copied an advert made by the *MOHCC) but instead added her own email address and Ecocash number at the bottom of the advert. Now, this advert was widely circulated on social media and many people responded to it hoping to get a student nurse training slot. The advert requested some $ 50 application fees. I was shocked that it took weeks for people to realize that they were being scammed. Because when sending money to a government organization or Ministry through a merchant code it should reflect the organization's receiving it and NOT the name of a person. Honestly speaking, this alone was supposed to a red flag for the applicants. But given that most people are desperate for anything hundreds of them were fell for the con. Investigations did reveal the name of the person and her mobile number. When she was called she denied being the owner of the Ecocash account. She claimed that someone had used her details to register an Ecocash account. The Ministry distanced itself as they had not placed such an advert and Ecocash did NOT respond to enquiries made by this author. Econet is required by law to request a valid ID from any person acquiring a line. This is mandatory by POTRAZ the telecoms regulator. So if indeed the line was fraudulently registered then Ecocash is responsible for the losses because they have full records of how much was sent into that account and who owns it and who that person has been calling.No brainer. But now Econet will only go after a person after a report has been made with the police. Now I doubt if this "loose" organization of volunteers took the matter to the police besides posting it on social media.

After that, the Ministry made it very clear that all applications are done online via the e-nurse portal. Applicants then rushed to the MOHCC website to try their luck. For about a week or so the portal was offline totally. But then it was brought online much to the delight of the applicants. But wait the celebrations were short-lived. After filling out the application online and submitting the Ecocash number you have to click the submit button to send your application and initiate the payment process. But guess what? The website instead returns an error to the effect that Ecocash service was down due to some 24-hour maintenance. Of course, that is a load of bull. More 48 hours elapsed and Ecocash was working without problems. Someone up there thought that they could hide behind last week's Ecocash outages. I then took time to look at the source code on their portal which returned the error and I realized that the errors in capital big red letters were actually "typed" into the error returning webpage.

See image below.

I decided to do some digging to find out more about this portal that was giving people headaches.

The portal through which ALL nursing applications must be made is .The domain was registered and owned by Cordaid. Cordaid is the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development. RBF from zimrbf looks like stands for results-based financing. So it means when you go to the Ministry website you will see a link called E-Nurse that you must click to apply. When you click on it you are directed to where you must enter your details and submit the application.

This tells me that government ISPs GISP or Zarnet responsible for taking care of government website have NO skills to do such or are an outright incompetent lot. For the payment via Ecocash to work, it means that the web developer must be able to integrate the Ecocash API, that's like a plugin from the portal to talk to Ecocash systems. This is the step that I suspect could be the problem because Econet is well known for being NOT so keen on sharing their Ecocash  API. Think of an API as the "connector".I am sure you know many websites use PayPal to effect payments because they avail their "connectors" to those want to integrate PayPal.

So for any progress to be made, the Ministry of Health and Child Care must come clean about what the source of the problem is. Is it the portal, Ecocash, government or ISP?

I know the Ministry runs its own DHIS 2 (District Health Information Software 2) online without any issues so this leaves me wondering what the problem is. Ecocash must come out clean and indicate if the problem is indeed on their side or not as claimed by MOHCC.

Because already people now have their own explanations like effect that the MOHCC already has its own shortlisted candidates and just buying time. With all this drama I wonder how fair the selection algorithm is there is any in the first place.

I would suggest that the Ministry creates a registration app that people can download onto their phones to ask people to use their portal. Android applications are optimized to ease the data submission process and consume less data. Also, they should provide alternative payment methods online like ZIPIT, OneWallet and Paynow just to mention a few. Do not make us laughing stock in the ICT arena!

As I was typing this I could NOT even transfer funds from Steward Bank owned by Econet to Ecocash also owned by Econet. I am not suggesting anything.

Robert Ndlovu
071 400 4000



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