THE Eastern Cape Education Department did not know how much debt it was accruing every year that was carried into the next one, according to a report tabled in the Bhisho legislature this week.

In its report on the department’s budget, the education portfolio committee said there was a “challenge of un-quantified accruals that are accumulating yearly” and were the result of “negligence”.

In 2011/12, the committee noted, the department had accrued debts of R552million that had escalated and emanated mainly from the provision of scholar transport, the school nutrition programme and non-payment of service providers.

Finance MEC Phumulo Masualle meanwhile revealed in reply to a question from Bobby Stevenson (DA) in the legislature that Education had an unaudited overdraft of R448-million at the end of the last financial year and Health R958-million.

As far as accruals were concerned, Education had closed the financial year on R236.2-million.

He stressed, however, that this was a preliminary figure.

Health Department accruals, he said, totaled R933.8-million for 2011/12, of which R637.6-million was invoices for goods and services.

Masualle said the budgets of the two departments were being monitored but it was “too early to determine how the expenditure will look at the end of the year”, adding that departments were required in terms of the Public Finance Management Act to operate within their respective budgets.

“This long playing saga of crippling over-expenditure has no consequences for those responsible and disastrous outcomes for the majority of provincial departments who suffer shrinking budgets to pay for Education and Health,” Stevenson said.