School book procurement in SA needs stronger controls

29 July 2011

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30 July 2011 | Adam Leach

The way schools in South Africa purchase text books is open to corruption due to a lack of controls.

A study, conducted by NGO TransparencyInternational (TI) found a lack of “appropriate mechanisms” to regulate the relationships between schools and vendors in the country has created a corruption risk.

Letshego Mokeki, national programme coordinator for Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery inAfrica – a TI scheme in South Africa, said in a statement: “The government needs to strengthen governance controls both at the provincial and school level and ensure that education budgets are used correctly. [It] has a duty to provide quality education for the next generation of South Africans, which is why it must take immediate steps to fight corruption.”

Under the Schools Governing Bodies Act, South African schools can manage contracts for textbooks themselves. But TI research suggests they do not have the right procedures in place to ensure the tendering process is managed fairly.

Over half (51 per cent) of 45 school principals surveyed admitted that they had no formal procurement policy in place, while just 30 per cent have no mechanism to compare the quality of suppliers, suggesting contracts are awarded solely on price. However, in some cases district or provincial officials manage the relationships between suppliers and schools, which mitigates the risk.

As the main area of school expenditure, outside of personnel, the procurement of textbooks is a prime area for corruption and misappropriation, backed up by the reports finding that embezzlement of funds is the main area of risk.

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