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Left: Democratic Alliance (DA) Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle. Right: Education MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe.

Dept of Education flushes R809m down drain

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Education Department officials responsible for underspending of R809 million in taxpayers’ money would have to face the music.
The assurance was given in response to questions about the issue raised by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province about the money having to be returned to National Treasury.
Education Department spokesperson Naledzani Rasila said there are a lot of factors that contributes to under- spending and one of them is poor planning from department officials.
He indicated that any official who is responsible for underspending will be held accountable.
In an earlier statement DA Provincial leader Jacques Smalle said the party is concerned that the department is to return R702 million of its equitable share and R107 million of Conditional Grants to National Treasury due to under-spending.
Smalle said the department’s presentation to the Legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Education on Friday indicated that they underspend in equitable share occurred in critical programmes such as Early Childhood Development (ECD), infrastructure development, examination and education related services and compensation of employees.
“The shambolic state of education in Limpopo is symptomatic of the severe underspending of conditional grants on projects such as Mathematics, Science and Technology by 18,8%, Education Infrastructure Grant by 6,7% and Life skills Grant by 29,5%. It is further unacceptable that more than 8 000 young learners in the Capricorn District did not receive food on the National School Nutrition programme for three months yet there was an underspending of R23,797 million of this grant,” he explained.
He added that the presentation report further indicated that the department spent 97,4% of its allocated R27,391 billion to date. This underspending can directly be linked to lack of leadership, poor financial and performance management and poor governance within the department.
He said these funds that are now lost to the department could have been reallocated to complete the 92 projects abandoned by the department or utilised towards the schools infrastructural backlog and maintenance. He further said the DA will write to the Head of Department (HOD) to request that systems be put in place to ensure reallocation of funds to critical programmes.
In a second statement also issued by the DA, the department is allegedly spending R23,3 billion, which is 81% of its allocated annual budget of R28,783 billion, on compensating employees. This is an increase of 4,4% from the previous financial year. Forecasts indicate that the salary bill will increase by 5,9% in the 2018/19 financial year,” said Smalle.
He further said the department has developed a recruitment plan for the 2017/18 financial year and plans to recruit more than 6 000 new employees that will include education specialists, circuit managers, principals and their deputies, teachers and the HOD.
Smalle said the presentation report indicated that the department will spend a further R2,46 billion towards the new posts.
“Sufficient funding should be spent on improving the quality of education, teacher training and the wellbeing of the learners. Yet the department’s salary bill is the highest of the provincial departments followed by the Department of Health, the Office of the Premier and Safety and Security with 72%, 71% and 69% respectively. Education Department is currently faced with a R23 billion infrastructure backlog, yet the department has only set aside R810,5 million for this purpose which is R300 million less than the previous financial year’s allocation,” he explained. He further said the learning process should receive priority when decisions for education budget spending are made.
Department of Education Spokesperson Naledzani Rasila confirmed that the department will indeed return a certain amount of money to National Treasury and also emphasised that he did not have the actual figure.
“The learners DA are referring to have never gone hungry. The service provider abandoned the contract in January but we appointed a temporary service provider who provided learners with food until April after we sealed a deal with the new contractor. The recent appointed service provider will render services until December,” he explained.
He further said the DA’s allegations in this regard are based on unverified information and they are misleading the nation.

Story: ENDY SENYATSI
>>endy@observer.co.za