Honourable Speaker, Fellow South Africans… I greet you with the universal greeting of peace, As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite.
When Barack Obama made this statement in his first speech to a joint session of Congress, he must have been speaking about one of the Cape Town teenagers who turned R7 000 into R130 000, taking on wall street hedge fund managers on a UK share trading platform called eToro.
It says a great deal about South African society that most teenagers in our public schooling system will have no idea how to even begin to emulate the now famed Cape Town teenagers.
Our duty is to create an education system that empowers all of our children, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth. Just as a quality education is a prerequisite to access opportunity, a capable state is a prerequisite for a quality education.
As education inequality widens in our province, it is the failure to build a capable state that requires closer scrutiny and decisive intervention.
For starters, the leadership of the department has more actors than a Hollywood production. All of the DDGs are acting with 19 SMS posts vacant setting the scene for a horror which extends from the management of the department, to the officials right down the ladder and ultimately to our schools. The victims are our children, and so the horror continues.
The accomplices are weak systems and an allergy for consequence management. As the department limped to yet another qualified audit, the auditor general lamented the lack of accurate and complete records and the department’s internal control unit’s inability to pick up faults in the departmental officials’ operations, which resulted in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
The financial statements submitted for auditing were not prepared in accordance with the prescribed financial reporting framework and supported by full and proper records, specific information systems were not implemented to enable monitoring of progress made towards achieving targets, core objectives and service delivery and procurement and contract management is plagued by uncompetitive and unadvertised bidding in contravention of Treasury regulations.
It is no surprise therefore that the AG found effective and appropriate steps were not taken to prevent unauthorized expenditure amounting to R990.5m, irregular expenditure amounting to R140.6m and fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R17.3m. Nor is it surprising that the AG was unable to find sufficient evidence that disciplinary steps were taken against officials who had incurred fruitless and wasteful expenditure as required by the PFMA. It is because this department is allergic to consequence management, and this allergy has spread from top to bottom.
PPM104 requires schools to be visited twice a year by officials for monitoring and support, 35% weren’t, and yet those officials who didn’t do their jobs faced no consequences. The consequences were borne by our learners, 37% of whom were not provided with their required textbooks as 40% of schools are still unable to produce a minimum set of management documents like timetables. PPM 107 reveals that a third of school principals are unsatisfied with the support services of districts with no consequences for underperforming district officials.
Underperformance meets a lack of consequence at a whole different level in the infrastructure department. Only 34 out of a targeted 178 schools were connected to water, 32 out of a targeted 178 schools had sanitation facilities built, 225 out of a targeted 285 additional classrooms and 16 out of a targeted 30 additional specialist classrooms were built, and only 5 out of a targeted 20 schools had scheduled maintenance projects completed. In the context of the massive infrastructure backlogs in our provinces, these targets were very very low and yet the department still came up desperately short, and there are no consequences for this failure.
Basic project management is lacking as implementing agents aren’t paid, contractors walk off site, and the interest, penalty and standing costs mount. Not a single official has suffered any consequences, instead, the learners at David Livingstone and many other schools are stuck indefinitely in unsafe temporary prefabs.
Ultimately it is in the classroom where the lack of consequences is most consequential. Only 33% of Grade R practitioners are appropriately qualified whilst only a third of teachers meet the required content knowledge after support. Take a moment to digest the fact that even after support given to teachers, only a third have the required knowledge of the content they are meant to teach. In fact, the department themselves have conceded that they have no clue as to the content gap in educators.
Essentially, they don’t know how many teachers actually know the content they are supposed to teach. Is it any wonder that only 26% of grade 12 learners achieved 50% or above in science and a horrendous 12% of grade 12 learners achieved 50% or more in mathematics?
As the world moves forward at a frightening pace, the horror has worsened in the current financial year. Schools have been thrown to the covid wolves, forced to purchase their own PPE after the department fattened tenderpreneurs through paying up to 5 times the retail price for PPE last year.
Clearly, the absence of a capable state has not only stolen the futures of our children but has also facilitated the stealing for cadres. An illegal over half a billion-rand tablet contract for Iqbal Surve’s Sizwe Africa IT Group without going to tender whereby tablets were leased for up to three times the price it would have cost to purchase them. As if old Iqbal wasn’t fattened enough with the pensions of government employees.
This is the horror story wherever the ANC is in government. An incapable state accompanied by weak systems and an allergy to consequence management. Conversely, where the DA is in government… in the Western Cape, Kouga or Nelson Mandela Bay, a capable and caring state rises from the ashes facilitated by strong systems and consequences for those who don’t perform.
As the local government elections approach, more and more South Africans will choose a capable state which is so sorely needed to lift us out of this horrific state that we have been condemned to.