School book procurement faces presidential criticism

12 October 2012

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12 October 2012 | Anna Reynolds

An investigation carried out by the South African presidential task team has found the Limpopo Department of Education wasted money and failed to manage its procurement database, resulting in delays and non-delivery of textbooks to schools in the province.

Commissioned by president Jacob Zuma, the report revealed despite adequate funding made available for the purchase of learner, teacher support material (LTSM), the provincial department overspent its budget by approximately R122.8 million (US$14.1 million). This was because there were problems managing cash flow and a lack of oversight.

The team found the department handed over the responsibility of managing the database for the procurement of LTSM to a service provider and kept no record of transactions on their own system. The report also discovered there was a lack of procurement skills in the provincial departments, with a general lack of monitoring of supply chain practices across departments.

Further, there were failings in staff reporting and acting on allegations of corruption and other cash irregularities. The investigation also highlighted a general confusion among the education department as to who should carry out procurement.

The inquiry recommended the Department of Basic Education (DBE) develop a policy for the standardisation of the procurement and distribution of LTSM nationwide. This policy must include mechanisms to strengthen contract and risk management.

The team also called for an investigation into the role of the director general of the DBE, who failed to act on a letter sent to him in December 2011 from the publishers, informing him that the textbooks had not been procured for the department of education for the next school year.

Following the report, president Zuma has asked the minister of the DBE to provide information on what progress has been made so far and has asked him to investigate the director general of the DBE. The president has assigned ministers in the presidency to assist the DBE in carrying out these tasks and implementing the report’s recommendations. The presidential task team is comprised of deputy ministers from finance, public service and basic education departments.

Neither the Limpopo Department of Education or the DBE, has yet responded to SM’s request for comment.

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