In the light of a shocking recent report by the Auditor-General on the financial state of education in the province, it is time for the portfolio committee on education and the legislature to get tough on the implementation of house rules. Year in and year out the same resolutions get tabled with little outcome.
One of the most damning findings of the AG’s report is that it only achieved 20% of its targets.
I welcome the decision taken by the Portfolio Committee on Education to invoke Rule 204 of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, which will strengthen its hand in dealing with the poor performance, based on the damning findings by the AG for the past financial year (1 April 2016 t0 31 March 2017).
Rule 204 states that in order to secure the integrity of the House and comply with the constitutional duties of the Legislature, the House may, on recommendation of the Portfolio Committee, resolve to instruct a political office bearer or official of the Legislature to take the necessary measures within its constitutional power to ensure implementation of the resolutions.
Where the DA governs, monies intended for education are spent on education and the learners benefit from high-quality teaching, excellent support systems and clean, honest school governance. These learners are not privileged – their constitutional right to a high-quality education is simply being met.
Some of the findings raised by the AG, which were presented in a report to the Portfolio Committee recently, are as follows:
- The department had spent 99% of its budget, but only achieved 20% of its targets. Also, 64% of the budget was spent in the last four months of the financial year, which could impact on irregular spending;
- R31-million was spent on overtime payments;
- R253-million was spent on consultants, to improve document management practices. Ironically, the AG was not able to fully audit the following components of the financial statements: Assets; Commitments; Goods and Services; Capped leave and Irregular Expenditure, because of a lack of requisite documentation;
- Currently, accumulated irregular expenditure stands at R2,59-billion as confirmed irregular expenditure, and a further R1,1-billion is still under investigation due to non-submission of necessary information. Factors contributing to irregular expenditure include inappropriate deviations from supply chain management processes, as well as contracts being awarded to supplier companies which are owned by departmental officials; and
- The capital expenditure budget stands at R1,7-billion and is not sufficient to meet the 2017/18 commitments which stand at R4,3-billion. The bank balance is in overdraft to the tune of R42 million.
Who suffers most? The learners, of course. It is no wonder that our province wallows at the bottom end of the results table when the department is rife with corrupt officials, poor managers and a general lack of capacity. Drastic measures will need to be taken in order to turn this dire situation around.
The term “consequence management” seems only to exist in theory, while officials blatantly steal from government coffers by awarding tenders to themselves, their families and their friends. Such activity is criminal and perpetrators should face the full might of the law. — Jane Cowley MPL, Deputy-Shadow MEC for Education