Non-delivery of textbooks did not affect other grades

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pretoria - The problems of late or non-delivery of textbooks in Limpopo was due to the commencement of a new curriculum and only affected grades 1,2,3 and 10, the Presidential Task team has found.

The report presented by the task team revealed that problems did not affect other grades as assumed.

The task team, which presented the report on Friday, was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the non-delivery and/or delays in the delivery of textbooks and stationery to Limpopo schools in the 2012 school year.

Among the list of reasons presented for the non-delivery of textbooks, included the abolishment of the Limpopo Department of Education Book Unit without putting in place a risk management plan to mitigate any challenges that could arise from the decision to outsource the procurement and distribution of Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM).

The task team also discovered that the provincial Education Department did not place the LTSM orders timeously and did not manage the contract with the service provider, EduSolutions efficiently.

It further negligently handed over the responsibility to manage and maintain the database for the procurement of materials to the service provider and prioritised the procurement of stationery instead of textbooks.

"After Limpopo Department of Education was placed under administration, the late and high turnover of administrators resulted in instability. The Director-General of the National Department of Basic Education [Bobby Soobrayan] failed to act on a letter he received from the publishers in December 2011, in which he was reminded that the LTSM had not been procured for the provincial education.

"Both the national and provincial departments did not have credible data on learner and teacher numbers in Limpopo, which prevented them from placing the orders, the financial and legal dispute with the service provider by the two departments resulted in inaction," the report noted.

The task team also found out that during the national intervention, there was sufficient funding made available from the provincial treasury to the administrator for the purchase of textbooks.

However, the task team highlighted that despite adequate funding being available, other factors impacted on the timely procurement of LTSM, which included:
* Over-expenditure on the compensation budget of Provincial Education Department because of the filling of unfunded posts, which amounted to approximately R122.8 million.
* A general tendency to disregard and transgress legislation.
* A weakness of the provincial treasury in responding to financial management issues such as cash-flow requirements, supply chain management and financial oversight.
* Lack of recourse, response and action for personnel with fiduciary duties to report corruption or irregularities.
* Lack of an ethos that promotes a system of accountability in provincial education.
* Management incompetence, lack of skills and lack of capacity both in the Provincial Treasury and Education.
* General lack of monitoring and evaluation of compliance in the Provincial Treasury regarding prudent cash management and monitoring of supply chain practices of departments.
* A lack of data, threat of legal action from the service provider and unclear mandates of who should do the procurement.

On what role of provincial and national department in the procurement (ordering and distribution) of LTSM for 2012 school year, the task team found that the provincial education negligently handed over the responsibility to manage and maintain the database for the procurement of LTSM to the service provider and only acted as a "post office" in that they received and merely forwarded the information to the service provider, EduSolutions, without keeping any record in their system.

It also found that the provincial department did not order books for the 2012 school year and the provincial treasury did not manage its finances to effectively address the five priorities of government in its failure to manage cash flow and monitor the expenditure of the province.

"In rationalising its budget the Limpopo Department of Education failed to prioritise the LTSM programme and at the end of the reprioritisation exercise, the department opted to procure stationery instead of textbooks. The Office of the Premier failed in its legal and political mandate to monitor and oversee the planning, budgeting and implementation of programmes of departments.

"The Department of Basic Education, through the provincial oversight unit, did not fully oversee the readiness of departments to deliver on their obligations for the 2012 school year. When section 100 (1) (b) was instituted, the Basic Education failed to prioritise the ordering of books and concentrated on matters that were not helpful to the process despite advice from National Treasury and appointed administrators," the report reads.

It further noted that the administrators appointed by the national department did not get sufficient support and delegations to deliver on the terms of reference of the section 100 (1) (b) intervention and the procurement of textbooks function was not delegated to them.

"The Department of Basic Education left things too late while addressing issues that would not facilitate the speedy placing of orders and misrepresented facts on a non-existent court order barring them from ordering books from alternative suppliers."

On the role of service providers in the acquisition, distribution and delays in the delivery of the LTSM for 2012 school year, the task team discovered that prior to the intervention, EduSolutions suspended the procurement of the LTSM when provincial education could no longer pay them.

After the intervention, EduSolutions did not procure and distribute LTSM, owing to the dispute with Basic Education Department, as a result of the dispute with the department, EduSolutions was reluctant to hand over the data to the department to commence with the procurement of LTSM as well as to place orders with publishers.

The evidence pertaining to the dumping of textbooks was not presented to the task team as the matter is before the courts and a disciplinary hearing is in process.

At least one person allegedly linked to a series of dumping of textbooks incidents has been arrested and charged with several counts and has appeared in court.

With regard to the intervention to address the failures in the Provincial Government, the intervention team has identified the following weaknesses that need to be addressed, inter alia:

* Cash and budget management such as overruns and corruption.
* Leadership capacity and management deficiencies, for example ineffective oversight, direction, leadership operational instead of strategic and early warning mechanisms.
* The capability of the Limpopo Education staff.
* The organisational structure was not aligned to budget and service delivery models.
* Poor contract management, project management, no statistics on learner and teacher numbers in the provincial education department.
* The inability of the Provincial Oversight Unit within Basic Education to effectively monitor and oversee the procurement and delivery of LTSM in Limpopo Education Department.
* Systemic corruption in the Provincial Education Department.

The Task Team found that the proposed legislation will provide for a more integrated cooperative governance system in which national government monitors and supports provincial government more effectively, and is able to develop a system of early warning signals of significant provincial government failures.

It found that if legislation had already been passed, it would have provided greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the different role-players and would have made for a more effective intervention in Limpopo. However, they added that the absence of such a law cannot be used as an excuse for the Limpopo intervention not being effective and the failure to provide schools with textbooks.

"There is sufficient precedent set in previous Section 100 interventions and there are legislative prescripts in other legislation (PFMA, Public Service Act - PSA, etc) that provide a reasonable framework for interventions.

"The considerable experiences of Section 139 interventions are also relevant in providing a broad framework or norms. It is the failure to abide by these precedents, legislative prescripts, previous experiences and norms that explain the ineffectiveness of the intervention,'' said the Task Team.

A catch-up plan for grade 10 has been developed and presented to Parliament, and it is in the process of being implemented. There is however, still a need for buy-in by stakeholders, including teacher unions, school governing bodies, teachers and learners.

There was no need for such a plan for grade 1,2 and 3, the task team noted.

The Task Team found that there are plans in place, the Administrator has provided a process map for the procurement and delivery of textbooks and stationery for the 2013 School calendar year. - SAnews.gov.za

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