The academic year for thousands of learners across the Eastern Cape has started poorly as the scholar transport meant to get them to school is in shambles.
Transport operators have not been paid since November due to a lack of funds despite the Department of Transport slashing the number of learners receiving scholar transport last year, from over 124 000 to 103 000, due to budget constraints.
Now even less are getting transport, because of the Department’s non-payment of service providers.
It is simply unacceptable that there is no money left for an item that has been budgeted for. What has happened to the money? Where has it been siphoned off to?
The ramification of the non-payment is that many operators simply cannot afford to continue transporting learners, and these children will miss out on the fundamental building blocks for their academic careers.
Two independent audits of the scholar transport system have shown that there are huge irregularities in payments due to lack of internal controls within the Department.
Transport MEC, Weziwe Tikana-Gothiwe, has referred this matter to Provincial Treasury to assess, trying to delay the inevitable. Decisive action needs to be taken against those involved in abusing the scholar transport system.
The sad reality is that unless money is found and these operators are paid, children across the province may have no access to transport until the new financial year in April!
It is clear the Department is simply unqualified and incapable of managing this service, and the Democratic Alliance repeats its call for this service to be given to the Department of Education, which is in a much better position to assess the needs of learners needing transport and coordinating same.
I will be writing to Premier Oscar Mabuyane and the MEC of Finance, Mlungisi Mvoko, to challenge them to find the additional funds needed to provide scholar transport to all learners who qualify.
Perhaps they can succeed where the Transport MEC Tikana-Gothiwe has failed.