Annette Lovemore MP
DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
The National Department of Basic Education is not using standard procedures to buy textbooks for the Limpopo province for the 2013 academic year.
The Limpopo Education Department is currently being administered by the National Department of Basic Education (DBE). I will request that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga address the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to explain deviations in textbook procurement processes for Limpopo.
The DA is in possession of a record of the meeting held between the DBE, the Limpopo Education Department and textbook publishers in Polokwane concerning the 2013 Limpopo textbook procurement process.
It was clear from the record that the procurement process is being centralised nationally and is not following any specified guideline. Of particular concern, is the ad hoc basis on which publishers are being selected for what appears to be a reduced catalogue of textbooks. Textbooks orders can be very lucrative, and a selection process for the catalogue that does not follow a standard procedure makes the process vulnerable to corruption.
Other concerns about the procurement process raised at this meeting include:
* A lack of transparency on prices and the selection guidelines of publishers and titles for the catalogue;
* A lack of transparency on the composition of the selection committee;
* The use of pricing as a determining factor as opposed to the quality of the content of learning material;
* Conflicts of interest between provincial department officials connected to publishers; and
* Favouring of publishers in the selection process. The Minister needs to provide assurances that the procurement processes are transparent and in the best interests of learners.
It was notable that, during the meeting in Polokwane, the DBE pointed out that other provinces should follow the processes of the Western Cape in terms of procurement. (Interestingly the rebuttal from publishers was that the Western Cape approach was well-structured and incentivized publishers to reduce prices).The first step in effective procurement is a fair, transparent process to ensure quality service providers that will deliver textbooks timeously.
Learners in Limpopo are still reeling from the effects of the late delivery of textbooks this year which has been attributed, at least in part, to the problems associated with the tender awarded to the politically-connected EduSolutions. We cannot afford a repeat of this debacle. Minister Motshekga must ensure that the procurement processes for textbooks are above reproach.