LSU offices face internet disruption, staff fear compromised data and revenue loss

An internet outage at Lupane State University (LSU) offices in Bulawayo has sparked disruption of services, potential revenue loss, and delays, with staff concerned that the lack of connectivity may have compromised the processing of examination results, including the institution’s financial information.

Well-placed sources within the university said LSU experienced a sudden internet outage, preventing staff from accessing online tools, emails, shared documents, and the Accounting System Sage Pastel, bringing university business to a standstill.

“This resulted in revenue loss, failure to process examination results by sections, and disruption of University business,” said one of the university staff who requested anonymity fearing victimisation.

“On April 12, 2024, the third floor of the CBZ building, where LSU offices are located, was hit by a power outage as the electricity token was depleted, resulting in an abrupt blackout. When power was restored, the router went back to its Read Only Mode.”

When reached for comment, LSU spokesperson Densen Kulube dismissed this as false.

“That one is not true. As it is, I am accessing my email now so I don’t know who has given you that information, what their aim is, or objective,” he said.

“You can even visit the university maybe but the network is something that comes and goes even on our phones because the next minute it will be down. Those are some of the dynamics of this digital world. Visit our university and see for yourself.”

Kulube added if someone had a problem at the institution they could have approached the IT offices.

“They know where to go. There’s an IT section that helps people. No one can claim they are failing to access their results. If they are failing to access their results in whichever way, they should go to our IT office and be assisted instead of them maybe running to a media house,” said the LSU spokesperson.

However, sources insisted “nothing has been sorted,” adding that an Academic Board meeting meant for this Friday morning was postponed because of non-connectivity.

“The Deputy Minister of Higher Education will also be at CBZ offices to see for himself the situation,” claimed one of the sources.

According to the sources, the Director of Information Communication Technology Services (ICTS), Engineer Mavellas Sibanda, is not a hands-on person capable of resolving the situation.

“On Saturday, April 13, 2024, the Vice-Chancellor arrived at his Bulawayo office and realised there was no internet and called the ICTS Director to come and resolve the problem, but he could not manage because he is not a hands-on man,” claimed the staff.

The staff members narrated that when the director assumed his position, “he hit the ground running” but purchased ICT equipment that had become useless.

“He bought 300 refurbished desktop computers, Core i5 with 500GB hard drive, 8 GB RAM which cost US$191.31 each, totaling US$66 001.95 from Qrent trading as Innovent Zimbabwe with invoice number PFS23259 on December 11, 2023,” said one staff member.

“The used Core i5 machines have already reached their end of life, it would be prudent for the University to acquire at least 150 brand new machines for that amount of money.”

The staff members highlighted this as an example of the ICT Director failing to discharge his duties but lamented how the LSU administration had not taken him to task.

“Every minute of downtime translates to wasted labour costs and missed opportunities. Previously, the University has charged employees for lesser charges such as having failed to write minutes on time, but here the university has failed to act when there is clear incompetence and disruption of the Internet, systems, and poor decision-making on acquiring obsolete computers,” said one of the staff members.

“Several employees have also been reprimanded for lesser cases such as delayed responses which raises questions on treating employees equally.”

The university personnel said on April 15, 2024, the Director tasked his Graduate Trainees (GTs) to attend to the problem because one of the Chief Technicians was on sick leave.

“In an attempt to configure the router, the GTs formatted the router to its original settings and erased all the commands. The University is at risk of having lost financial information and student results,” said one of the sources, adding that staff members were so agitated.

“LSU is a teaching and learning institute where meetings are done online, students and lecturers do research using the internet but nothing has been done to address connectivity challenges that have bedevilled the institution.”

Other members of staff who also commented on anonymity claimed the ICTS Director is not qualified for his position.

“(Sibanda) holds a Bachelor of Technology Degree in Information Technology acquired in 2012 and has no technical experience. As staff, we have raised concerns that since he assumed the position as Director of ICTs in October 2023 from being a Lecturer in the Department of Engineering, the internet connectivity has been a crisis but not to a standstill as from that Friday, April 12, 2024,” said one staffer.

“The Director is addressed as an engineer and no one knows whether he is a software Engineer or Technical engineer. This raises questions about his qualifications”.

Meanwhile, the LSU spokesperson declined to comment on the claims levelled against the ICT director.

“I am not an ICT specialist and not a human resource specialist. I cant comment about someone’s competency who has been hired to take a certain position in an institution. Those are issues to do with the people who are affected themselves. As an institutional spokesperson, I cannot comment on other people’s competencies because people perform differently,” Kulube said.

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