R520m SCHOOLS’ INFRASTRUCTURE GRANT FOR BHISHO CAUSES CONCERN: THE HERALD

THE Eastern Cape Department of Education has been allocated an additional grant for the provision of infrastructure totalling R520-million.

However, opposition political parties have slammed the department for rampant underspending of its finances and said the allocation would not make any impact in the province.

The grant was made by the Department of Basic Education last week.

The provincial Department of Education has the largest backlog in the country with regard to the provision of infrastructure to schools and as a result received the largest chunk of the R700-million set aside by the national department for all the provincial education departments.

The money has been released to provide water, sanitation and electricity to schools and to fix those in urgent need of repair.

DA leader in the provincial legislature Bobby Stevenson said they welcomed the allocation.

“However, with effectively four working months left to the end of this financial year, the department will have to step up a gear to successfully spend the money. Its track record has been dismal to date. Last year it only spent 33% of its capital budget and earlier this year had only spent 8.5%.”

Stevenson said the department only managed to build 17 schools last year. “As the departments of Education and Public Works lack the capacity, these projects should be outsourced to agencies with the necessary controls and oversight.”

COPE provincial spokesman Nkosifikile Gqomo said it was of concern that the department lacked the capacity to spend, which meant it was unable to use funds. “The public and schools continue to be victims of a lack of delivery because of maladministration and lack of capacity,” he said.

Public Works provincial spokesman Thami Mchunu said the department was not involved in anything other than mud schools. “We are starting the campaign to eradicate mud schools and will be working with the Department of Education.”