Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery (ASIDI): progress report by Department of Basic Education

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

12 September 2012
Chairperson: Ms M Makgate (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education noted that the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery (ASIDI) Initiative had been established to get rid of all inappropriate school structures and provide basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation. DBE lacked the experience to carry out the project, thus they relied on appointed implementing agents who lacked the capacity to carry out the scale of projects required, hence limiting progress. Out of the R1 billion committed for 2011/12, only R59 million was spent; R900 million was rolled over to 2012/13. The Department had planned to get rid of 50 of these schools, electrify 164, supply water to 188 and deliver sanitation infrastructure to 354 during the 2011/12. Out of 49 schools being constructed in Eastern Cape in 2011/12, only four had been completed. Reasons cited for the delays included inclement weather, difficult terrain, procurement problems and non-performing implementing agents.

During discussion, Members expressed disappointment at the slow progress of the project. DBE should not have hired implementing agents who lacked the capacity to do the job. Members emphasized the importance of a timeline in contracts with agents to factor in the additional costs associated with delays.

Moving forward, DBE would perform more thorough checks on the capacity of contractors to complete the project, it would diversify implementing agents to spark competition, and increase its own capacity in order to have more control over projects. It considered moving some future construction projects forward so as to be able to complete the project on time.

After the dismal progress report by DBE, t
he Chairperson accused the DBE of a lack of commitment to the project. The Committee would perform an oversight visit to the provinces to visit the projects and assess their progress.

Meeting report

Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery (ASIDI) by Department of Basic Education (DBE)
The Department of Basic Education briefed the Committee on its Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery (ASIDI) Initiative, reporting on the progress of 49 schools being built in the Eastern Cape, the provision of basic services to schools that previously lacked them and their plan for the current financial year and the future. The delegation comprised Ms Tsholofelo Diale, Project Manager: ASIDI and Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy Director General: Department of Basic Education.

Ms Diale stated that Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery (ASIDI) was funded through the School Infrastructure Backlogs Grant. Its purpose was to eradicate all inappropriate schools and provide
basic level of water, sanitation and electricity to schools. ASIDI targeted 495 inappropriate schools that were identified and set a goal of building 50 new schools during the 2011/12 financial year. Out of R700 million budgeted for 2011/12, R420 million was allocated for the eradication of 50 mud schools and R280 million for provision of water, sanitation and electricity to schools. However, approximately R1.058 billion was committed in contracts: R841 million towards the eradication of inappropriate schools (including professional fees) and R217.3 million towards provision of basic services.

She explained the implantation structure of the programme: DBE established a Project Support Unit, which worked closely with Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) to prioritise and assess needs of specific projects and come up with baseline targets. PEDs worked with the Provincial Public Works Departments as custodians to coordinate the improvement of the facilities, whereas DBE appointed Implementing Agents to manage batches of projects. Implementing Agents then appointed professional service providers and contractors to execute the work. Most of the projects were in Eastern Cape. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) was appointed implementing agent of 50 inappropriate schools in Eastern Cape, but one school was removed from the programme because the Eastern Cape Department of Education was implementing it.

Each school would have an administration block, a grade R classroom, a nutrition tuck shop, a resource centre that included a multi purpose classroom, a multimedia centre with a library and ICT facilities, a science laboratory, and seven classrooms.  A progress report showed that only 1 out of 49 inappropriate schools was above 80% completion. The planned completion date of 20 August lapsed. Reasons cited as the cause of delay for not completing the 20 August target included: poor accessibility of sites due to lack of proper roads, difficult terrain, difficult physical terrain, inclement weather and difficulty in obtaining material supply. A report on the progress of basic service projects showed that Mvula Trust, which was the implementing agent for Limpopo and Eastern Cape, had completed 38 water projects in Limpopo. In Eastern Cape, 84 schools were provided with rain water harvesting infrastructure, 31 out of 32 were connected to municipal bulk supply, but none of the 49 projects identified for borehole connections were completed yet.

Total commitment for 2011/12 was about R 1 billion and expenditure was R59.7 million. Therefore R944.9 million was carried over into the 2012/13 financial year. R2.3 billion was the allocated budget for 2012/13, which included the commitments carried over. Challenges included procurement of implementing agents, project scoping and planning (PSPs) and contractors. Lessons learned from 2011/12 included increasing DBE’s capacity in order to have more control at project level, no longer being limited by existing relationships with implementing agents, and diversifying implementing agents to promote competition and spread risk. The implementation approach to be used going forward was based on the Infrastructure Delivery Management System (IDMS) established by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and National Treasury.

The main challenge DBE faced during the rationalisation process was low enrolment figures for some schools in the later years of the project. DBE was working with provinces to determine their plans for location of schools, to prevent the provision of infrastructure in areas where it might not be needed.

Mr Padayachee stated that four of the completed schools would be handed over on 15 September 2012 and opened by the President on 2 October 2012. DBE had also taken a strong stance against non-performing contractors, as determined by DBSA. They would cancel such contracts and not give them future contracts. TBP was one of the companies in danger of being blacklisted. Another challenge was that since the bulk of the money would go into projects in two districts in Eastern Cape, there was a danger of prices going up in that geographic area, thus causing less value for money. In order to fully utilise the 2012/13 budget, construction of some of the schools from 2013/14 might be brought forward to run parallel to the 100 schools for 2012/13. The budget had not been exceeded, but time constraints had been a challenge. Other challenges included provision of furniture, library books and kitchen equipment for completed schools.

The Chairperson pointed out that the target in Eastern Cape for 2011/12 was 50 schools. How many had been completed?

Ms Diale said that four schools were ready to be handed this month over but the rest were at various stages of construction – at an average of 50% completion.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) expressed concern that only R59.7 million was spent in 2011/12 and R900 million had been carried over to 2012/13. This was an indication that a large part of the project had not been completed. Why was the entire R1 billion not used as planned?

Mr Padayachee explained that the limited capacity of the implementing agents had delayed the completion of the projects.

The Chairperson remarked that it was irresponsible to appoint agents who did not have the capacity to finish the project. Why did DBE have to use implementing agents instead of hiring contractors directly?

Ms Diale said that DBE had never implemented such a project before; hence they relied on implementing agents. Problems that arose consequently were industry-wide. However, in future, they would investigate contractor companies more thoroughly to determine the number of projects that they could handle.

Mr Padayachee explained that the main function of DBE was building the curriculum, learning and teaching. Construction projects were the responsibility of the Department of Public Works, which had been difficult to work with.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Guateng) asked why a timeline was not included in the contracts with agents and contractors. Did DBE have the capacity to monitor the quality of the work?

Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) noted that because the time for completion of the project for 2011/12 had lapsed, there would be extra costs incurred due to the delay. Did DBE’s contracts with their agents factor in these extra costs?

Ms Diale responded that penalty clauses were included in the contracts to deal with extra costs due to delays. However, fair consideration was given if projects were delayed during inclement weather.

Mr Padayachee said that some contractors purposefully created delays to defraud the government. DBE had cracked down on such contractors and already cancelled one contract with Inyameko/ Vukukhanye. He added that no money was paid before confirmation and verification of the buildings by officials.

Ms Mncube noted that costs vary amongst provinces. Had DBE detected any price variations? In areas where enrolment figures were low and schools were in danger of being closed, would ASIDI redirect the funds to other areas?

Ms Diale answered that ASIDI had a mandate to get rid of any inappropriate structures despite low enrollment figures. It was considering alternative technologies such as temporary structures in such areas.

Mr Padayachee added that the prices still varied between provinces but DBE tried to establish realistic costs using a cost model and did not accept higher prices unless justification was provided.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) pointed out that the purpose of the grant only included fully inappropriate schools and schools that lacked basic facilities. Were schools that were appropriate but lacking adequate basic facilities covered?

Mr Padayachee answered that the grant did not include maintenance or improvements such as fixing vandalized infrastructure. It only covered inappropriate buildings and basic services in their entirety.

Ms Rantho remarked that she had received complaints from Eastern Cape because local schools were being built by outside contractors (instead of local contractors ) who were not familiar with the terrain, thus causing delays.

Ms Diale responded that contractors were hired from any part of the country but the terms of their contracts stated that they had to use local labor and procure materials from that province except when there was a shortage of materials.

The Chairperson noted that the number of inappropriate schools listed in the project report was much less than the actual number in the country. How did DBE verify their targets? Were there any schools for people with disabilities on the list?

Ms Diale admitted that DBE initially made a mistake by relying on implementing agents to verify targets on the sites. It now had its programme support visit the schools and establish the amount of work that still needs to be done in order to calculate the cost.

Mr Padayachee responded that there were not any schools for people with special needs on the list because none of these schools met the specific criteria for the grant.

The Chairperson noted a lack of progress and commitment to the project by DBE. The Committee would perform
an oversight visit to the provinces to visit the projects and assess their progress.

Meeting adjourned.


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