Education Department’s financial woes continue

By Jacques Smalle MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education:

The DA is disappointed, but not surprised at the disclaimer audit opinion received by the Education Department for the 2014/15 financial hear.

This was revealed in the Annual Performance report by the department   to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education late last week.

The AG reiterated many of its concerns about the department’s dismal performance in 2014/15,

Amongst its concerns was:

  • Fruitless and wasteful expenditure which amounted to R72 million and irregular expenditure with the total of R2 209 894 000
  • The Limpopo department is yet again, the only province to receive a disclaimer for both the this financial year. This destructive trend has been ongoing for the past four financial years
  • Supply chain management is at the crux of many of the department’s shortcomings in terms of service delivery.
  • It is shocking that at this stage of the year, the R34 million budgeted for the provision of school furniture for current financial year, has not been spent whilst our learners share desks and often have to sit on the floor.

These expenditures could have been easily avoided if the mandatory procurement processes was enforced by the department and officials held accountable for any contravention hereof.

In the DA-led Western Cape, learners from the poorest of schools (quintile 1-3) are already provided with learning material, textbooks and sufficient furniture at the beginning of the learning year, for a conducive learning environment.

Furthermore, the AG believes that the Accounting Officer does not perform adequate monitoring and valuation of financial/ performance reporting.

The final blow to this crisis was highlighted by the  HOD who admitted to the Education Committee  that the department’s record management is non-existent.

Crucial records on teacher absenteeism, performance contracts etc, are not captured in a reliable and transparent system which in turn makes accountability impossible.

We are deeply concerned that the department continues to develop action plans and targets that are totally inadequate in dealing with its root challenges.  It ignored most of the recommendations made by the AG from current and previous years.

The latter cannot continue under the newly appointed  MEC’s watch, who needs to inspire much needed confidence in the public and set a precedence of zero-tolerance to poorly performing officials in the department.

There are instances of fruitless, unauthorised, irregular and wasteful expenditure amounting to millions which remains unaccounted for with no investigations or appropriate disciplinary steps.

Performance and consequence management is crucial in ensuring that officials are held accountable and in creating a hostile environment to poor performance and preventable transgressions.

The DA urges the Education MEC to comply with section 38 (1)(h)(iii) of the PFMA which stipulates that effective and appropriate disciplinary steps must be taken against officials who made and /or permitted irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The lack of action by the MEC will further expose serious shortcomings and vulnerabilities of the department as well as the continuous lack of support to our learners and educators. Now more than ever government must re-prioritize funding and increase the current norms of standards to schools in Limpopo from R320 per learner to R1161 per learner.

The DA calls on the MEC to prioritise schools by placing them at the centre of his agenda to ensure that our learners are able to get the best possible education in the best possible environment.