Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Members of the Executive Council, Honourable members in the house and guests present here today, allow me to state unequivocally that it is indeed an honour and a privilege to present a report as a member of the Democratic Alliance, on the performance of the Provincial Department of Education for the period 2010/2011.
Honourable Speaker, the core function of all those involved in education, is to unconditionally provide quality education and to create opportunities for our learners in order for them to realise their aspirations.
Honourable Speaker, benchmarks have been set by certain Provinces, namely the Western Cape and Gauteng, as to the key indicators for achieving excellence in the education field. The Department of Education in the Eastern Cape, which was given a whopping R22,68 billion for the 2010/2011 financial year and which has overspent on compensation of employees and under spent on school infrastructure, has for the past seventeen years not been catching up with the rest of South Africa. This Department is in no hurry, as can be deduced from the well documented declining nature and challenges within this system, to get on par with already set benchmarks by well performing provinces, such as the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Honourable Speaker, the Department of Education had a total adjusted budget of R23,183,440 billion for 2010/2011. R18,332,258 billion was budgeted for compensation of employees, which represented 79,1% of the total adjusted budget. The Department of Education, however overspent by R621,941 million as at the end of the financial year. The personnel versus the non personnel expenditure stood at 87:13 and is currently close to 90:10. This expenditure trends will clearly have a detrimental effect on the core business, which is teaching and learning.
Honourable MEC, the Department has intimated that it intents improving resource deployment to ensure an 80:20 split by 2014/2015. It is indeed brave to make pronouncements that aim to avail more funds towards the core function of the Department, namely teaching and learning. No plans were provided as to how it is going to be achieved and sustained. The expenditure on personnel is skyrocketing at the expense of other core non- personnel items, such as adequate Learner Teacher Support Material and Textbooks, sustained maintenance of school buildings, eradication of all inappropriate structures, funding of schools at the required national level for the norms and standards for schools funding. It is difficult to contemplate how this ratio of spending will be decreased in favour of non- personnel deliverables, when this Department has decreased the learner teacher ratio across the Province to 28:1, which equates to more educators in schools. Honourable MEC, the Department also wants to reduce the current subject advisors to schools ratio from 1:173 to 1:25 before 2014/15 and they also want to attract and retain more educators in rural areas as from 2012/13. It is indeed noble to want to implement the above that will subsequently give rise to an increase in personnel, which consequently will have cost pressures as a result of an increased budget for the compensation of employees, resulting ultimately in less money available for non personnel expenditure. The Democratic Alliance really hopes that it will be revealed in the Department’s plan as to how they are going to decrease expenditure on personnel while simultaneously increasing the total number of employees as alluded to before.
Honourable MEC, the Auditor General has not been able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion because of lack of documentation to substantiate expenditure incurred. The Department did not maintain adequate records nor does it have a credible data base. There is a clear lack of filing and archiving of important documentation. The lack of supporting documents and or sufficient audit evidence to support payments, transfer payment to schools, capital expenditure, irregular expenditure and contractual commitments, amounting to billions of rand, are also contributory factors for the Auditor General not to express an opinion on these financial statements.
Honourable MEC, in spite of progress made, such as the 1 531 550 learners are benefitting from the National School Nutrition Programme, the 1 657 888 learners benefitting from the No Fee School Policy and the 87 132 learners transported, although there were logistical and budgetary issues in providing these learners with meals and transport during the last quarter of the financial year and the 3544 learners that will benefit from the Fee Exemption Policy, the Department is still encountering a lack of oversight and accountability of senior management, which has perpetuated the negative audit outcomes over the last 17 years.
Honourable MEC, the unavailability and access to senior management to all departmental staff, as well as staff not being aware of their responsibilities is conducive to an environment where fraudulent activities can occur. There is also an intentional lack of direction by senior management, resulting in an ineffective human resource management.
Honourable MEC, it is no surprise that this Department has received a disclaimer from the Auditor General and there are no guarantees that the Audit rectification plan will be successfully implemented as well as recommendations made by the Auditor General in order to improve the audit outcomes.
The Democratic Alliance is appealing to you as MEC, to be alert to any maladministration, fraudulent transactions and acts of insubordination and to act with the necessary assertiveness in order to root out these unscrupulous frauds in the interest of the aspirations of our learners.
Democratic Alliance supports the report presented by the Portfolio Committee on Education.