Deputy Minister of Basic Education on his Department 3rd Quarter 2015/16 performance

Standing Committee on Appropriations

04 May 2016
Chairperson: Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Basic Education (DBE)presented the 3rd quarter expenditure report of the DBE. Overall, spending was at 79% of allocations, which is slightly above what is to be expected at 3rd quarter. However, she noted that key contributing activities had taken place early in the financial year to inflate these figures. The over and under spending, where it had occurred, was explained. The Expanded Public Works Programme was at only 13.64% expenditure, and the Annual National Assessment funds at 30.98%, although the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit was significantly overspending at 130%. In terms of the conditional grants, spending performance was largely satisfactory, but with lower than expected spending on the Education Infrastructure grant and the Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) grant. In both cases, measures were taken to accelerate the spending. Almost all performance targets were reached for the National School Nutrition Programme and the HIV/AIDS Life Skills Education grants. As a result of union dissatisfaction, the Annual National Assessment (ANA) had not been written in some provinces, although again remedial action was taken, including the setting up of a task team to remodel the ANA. DBE had managed to keep amicable relations with the unions. Recommendations were made for the Appropriations Bill, and the response of the DBE to the Auditor General was summarised.

Members were interested in understanding the causes of delays in the rationalisation of schools, and the implementation of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) and Annual National Assessment (ANA) projects. They also raised concerns about the under-spending and whether the measures taken to improve the situation would be efficient and permanent. Members questioned the spike in expenditures that took place in January. They asked why stipends were paid to volunteers for the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP), and questioned the delivery of workbooks and the role of service providers in this task. Members were also concerned about the effect of the shifts of migration, the life span of text books and teacher absenteeism.
 

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education (DBE) on its Third Quarter 2015 performance
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister, Mr Enver Surty, and noted a written apology from the Director General (DG) of the Department of Basis Education (DBE or the Department). 

The Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Enver Surty, noted that the DBE intends to release the report from the investigation into allegations that some members of Teacher痴 Unions and the Education Department were involved in the illegal selling of educator posts, by Friday 6 May 2016. This process explained why the Minister and Director General were not at the meeting, as they were engaged with the unions. 

Mr M Figg (DA) requested a fair time allocation to the presentation that would leave sufficient time for Members' questions, and he and the Chairperson agreed that about half the time could be allocated to questions.

Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Basic Education, noted that by the third quarter the programmes had spent slightly above the norm of 75%. She explained that this does not necessarily indicate over-spending as some key contributing activities had taken place earlier in the financial year.

The following two slides contained a summary of expenditure per programme. Programme 1 (Administration) showed 85.56% spent. The bulk of the remaining balance is in respect of payments for the unitary fee due in the fourth quarter for office accommodation.

Programme 2 (Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring) had 79.93% spent. She explained that 96.37% of this programme is allocated to the Kha Ri Gude project, Workbooks, and the Mathematics, Science and Technology Conditional Grant (the MST Grant). The classes for Kha Ri Gude started later than expected which led to lower expenditure for the period under review. The bulk of the expenditure on this project is in respect of stipends for volunteer educators who are paid as and when tuition has been provided. The printing and delivery of workbooks volume 1 was completed in September 2015. The printing of workbooks volume 2 has been completed and the delivery was 99% complete in the period under review. The transfers of the MST grant to provinces were made on 9 and 13 November 2015. Three provinces did not receive transfers, namely: the Free State, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape; funds were withheld in these cases due to low spending.

Programme 3 (Teachers, Education Human Resources Development and Institutional Development) had 86.08% spending, mainly due to the transfer of the Funza Lushaka Bursaries funds to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The bulk of the transfer was made in April with further transfer in July and the final transfer in January 2016.

Programme 4 (Planning, Information and Assessment) had spent 77.59%. The delay in the process of school rationalisation caused a reduction in Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) spending. Out of the target of redressing 510 inappropriate schools in the Eastern Cape, only 211 schools have been affected by the school rationalisation process. In addition, the fourth transfer of the Education Infrastructure Grant to the Eastern Cape Province, amounting to R529.549 million, was not transferred due to low spending. This was eventually re-allocated to Gauteng (R400 million), Limpopo (R79.549 million) and the Western Cape (R50 million).

Programme 5 (Educational Enrichment Services) had 82.97% spent. The last transfers to provinces for the HIV and Aids and National School Nutrition Programme conditional grants amounted to R44.203 million and R949.145 million, respectively, and were made in January 2016.

She then discussed the details of the earmarked allocations/conditional grants for the 2015/16 financial year. She noted unusually low spending in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) at 13.64%. The reason is that the EPWP programme is monitored by the public works department, and they advise the DBE as to when to draw down the funding. Classes started unusually late and the DBE was only able to draw the funds in the fourth quarter.

Spending on the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU) has been beyond allocations at 130.38%. These amounts were largely incurred by the field workers employed by the programme, but the Department developed a plan to deal with this over-expenditure; some of the workers were moved to the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS) programme. Funding will be shifted from there in order to cover the short-fall in this category.

The Annual National Assessment (ANA) allocation was also underspent at 30.98%. Assessment was scheduled for September 2015, but was postponed until December 2015, but then only 25% of the schools wrote the ANA test in December, with others expected to write in January 2016. Expenditure is also only possible once the invoices for the printing and claims for provinces are received. When the ANA exam is written, DBE prints question papers for some provinces but others print their own papers. Provinces which had not submitted their invoices also had a negative impact on the spending for ANA.

Performance of Conditional Grants
Ms Molalekoa began with the spending per province on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). She noted that the provinces are spending satisfactorily with most figures at acceptable levels around 75%.

She then detailed the progress of the NSNP in the quarter under review. All nine Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) successfully implemented the school nutrition programme in line with the conditions of the Grant. In total 20 534 schools served meals to 9 298 431 learners. In addition, some PEDs have declared some quintile 4 and 5 schools as 渡o fee paying schools・ (details in the presentation) which significantly increased coverage to 10.01 million learners in 21 203 schools. On average, learners were fed for 41 of the 45 days with lower attendance/absenteeism after the final examinations.

Spending on HIV/AIDS life skills across the provinces was at 78.7% which she said was reasonable. Some provinces spend more than others, and some had held over money from the previous year.

She then discussed the progress of the DBE with the HIV and AIDS Life Skills programme. The reach of the programme was exceeded in Advocacy on Tuberculosis (TB) to 71 979 learners. She also discussed the targets (see attached presentation) for establishment of functional peer education programmes, curriculum-based learner pregnancy and learner retention programmes, education on prevention of Alcohol and Drug use, although the  establishment and training of School Based Support Teams target of 16 500 was not reached, but may pick up in the fourth quarter.

The MST spending was undesirably low at 59.8% of its budgeted amount at the end of the 3rd quarter. Some provinces were over-spending while other were under spending significantly, although DBE had   taken steps to address this. The responsibility to implement these measures falls within different departments including the DBE, National Treasury, and Provincial Curriculum Management.

The Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) conditional grant expenditure was normal except Gauteng which was a bit low and the Northern Cape which was at zero. She explained that the OSD grant is coming to an end in this year. In future, the allocation will be included in the equitable share of the provinces. The DBE was to prepare a closing report on the grant, and was assessing ways to deal with education therapists within the financial constraints of this grant.

The  education infrastructure grant expenditure was roughly on track at 68.2%, but there was undesirably low spending in the Eastern Cape. A task team comprising of officials from the DBE, Eastern Cape Provincial Education Department, National Treasury and the Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury had been formed to intervene, and to fast-track the implementation of the current infrastructure delivery programme and plan g to ensure readiness for implementation in the next financial year.

Service Delivery Implications, Challenges and Remedial Action
Ms Molalekoa discussed the Annual National Assessment. The fifth round of ANA was scheduled to be administered from 15 to 18 September 2015 in Mathematics and Language to all grade 1-9 learners in public schools, but teacher unions threatened not to participate a week prior to this. An agreement was reached with the Unions on the establishment of a Task Team to undertake the remodelling of ANA. An  Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) would attend to the broader disputes presented by the Unions. In addition, a mediation process was set up to specifically address the writing of ANA in December 2015. This had affected the budget by slowing expenditure, and payments to service providers, whilst also affecting the marking, analysis and reporting processes. 

Ms Molalekoa then discussed progress in terms of the Infrastructure Backlog Conditional Grant (IBCG). She indicated the baseline for the various activities and the completion of the projects as a percentage. Inappropriate Structures were 27% complete, Electricity was at 32%, Sanitation at 55%, and Water at 51%.

The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) schools rationalisation process was taking longer than anticipated, especially in the Eastern Cape. The DBE has taken measures to mitigate the delays. In particular, rationalisation and allocation to Implementing Agents is to run concurrently to shorten the time until implementation. 

Response to Committee Observation and Recommendations on Appropriation Bill
In terms of the National School Nutrition Programme, Ms Molalekoa explained that the target is developed annually, and that monitoring is conducted every month. The Department has targeted to monitor 43 districts and 150 schools in the 2016/17 financial year. In addition, the PEDs monitor and provide support to districts/circuits and schools.

The DBE submitted the following recommendations for the Appropriations Bill:
- Align and enhance budget planning and infrastructure planning function: The DBE and National Treasury have introduced the performance based assessment which enhances proper planning and budgeting. Provinces, through the Human Resources capacitation process, have appointed Infrastructure Delivery Management Systems (IDMs), and technical advisors who monitor and give advice on IDMs, which provides guidance on planning, budgetary and delivery of infrastructure.
- Enhance data systems, development of indicators and monitoring to ensure that all schools provide nutritious meals: The monitoring tools which have NSNP key indicators are used to monitor the quality and efficiency of the programme in partnership with FUEL, an NGO on Monitoring, Reporting and Response (MRR) to train monitors to improve quality of meals and efficiency of the programme.
- Ensure that vacant posts are filled in a timely manner:The Department is presently in the process of finalising the reconfiguration of the organisational structure. Once the process has been finalised and the structure approved, the DBE will move expeditiously towards the filling of all vacant posts in the Department.

Responses to Auditor-General痴 Presentation
Ms Molalekoa presented the audit outcomes of the nine provincial education departments and the National Department for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 financial years. In the 2013/14 financial year, five departments received unqualified reports with findings. In the 2014/15 year this number increased to seven, with one province (Western Cape) being qualified with no findings. There was a decline in audit outcomes in just one province, and an error in Limpopo.

Deputy Minister's comments
Mr Surty then provided several points of additional information to the Committee.

He explained that more than 3 million adults who were functionally illiterate and innumerate had received the benefit of the Kha Ri Gude programme and have been tested across the country. 4 million people will have been reached by the end of the programme. The allocation for the Kha Ri Gude has also been supported by the Expanded Public Works Programme. However, the Department of Public Works (DPW) had decided to allocate those resources rather towards the development of youth skills, in the ICT areas.

He commented that in terms of the ANA, South Africa was unique in having annually tested more than seven million learners on literacy and numeracy. The value of this testing has translated into progress in reaching goals. Although the  Eastern Cape performs extremely poorly at the matric level there is evidence to suggest that the increased literacy of adults is contributing to the success of foundation- and intermediate- phase learners in the area.

He too expanded on the dispute between the Department and the unions regarding the ANA, but said that many schools had continued to write the exams without permission from the Unions. When a school writes the ANA, there is internal moderation where a teacher is responsible for marking the script, plus external and central moderation. The effect of the decision by unions not to implement the ANA was that  external moderation could not occur. However, the Department and directors around the country are of the view are the ANA is a good tool to advance the goals of the country and that it should continue to be written.

He reported also on the workbooks, and said more than 50 million books are distributed free of charge to schoolchildren annually. More than 875 000 grade R learners receive four books every year. The DBE has done very well to be able to deliver on this. Provinces are also beginning to see the benefit of centralized and cheaper procurement.

The point of the Mathematics, Science and Technology grant is to established a dedicated branch to assist these weak areas. A digitized version of the textbook has been made available across the country. Digitized versions are very important to this discussion, as they enhance self-regulated learning.

Infrastructure is an enormous challenge in South Africa. The DBE regards a school as viable if it has more than 135 learners. This is why rationalisation of schools is important, and mergers are critical to improving the quality of schools on offer, although it does raise sensitive cultural issues.

Mr Surty then explained challenges to the DBE due to migration and over-rapid urbanisation which led to over and under subscription in schools. Rural school populations were decreasing and urban enrolment was increasing. Gauteng had 4 000 grade 8 students that could not be accommodated this year. This meant that the allocations provided were not always appropriate and up to date, leading to bottlenecks and problems in getting provincial departments to fulfil their obligations. A benefit of the backlog was that at least infrastructure had not been provided that would become a white elephant.

The nutrition scheme started in 1994 with about 250 000 learners. Five years later it had reached 2 million, being only primary-school children. Today the scheme includes primary schools and high schools, and covers three quintiles, with quintiles 4 and 5 to be introduced. This programme manages to feed more than 10 million children. The Eastern Cape is a model for decentralised food production. Communities have taken ownership of food provision, and adults have been trained to prepare meals hygienically and with higher levels of nutrition.  By comparison, Limpopo is a situation where centralised food provision is more appropriate and food is procured at quite a distance from the community.

Mr Surty mentioned the protest action in Limpopo involving the burning of school properties in response to demarcation of the area into the new Malamulele Municipality. All government employees, as public representatives, have a responsibility to ensure that these kinds of events and disputes are avoided. He noted that events that these may be elevated at present given the pending local government elections.

Discussion
Ms C Madlopa (ANC) noted that delay in the ASIDI project was reported to link to the delay in the rationalisation of schools, and asked what the key reasons for the latter delay were. She stressed that this had also had a negative impact on job creation and training, as well as service delivery.

She also asked what the Department痴 strategy was to mitigate the offence caused to people by redirection of funds despite the fact that the Department has already promised to spend the funds in a particular community.

Ms Madlopha was worried that the high transfers of funds in January for Programme 5, as noted on slide 5, might be a dumping of funds as it is very close to the financial end of year.

She congratulated the department on the success of the Kha Ri Gude project. She was concerned that the project was delayed in its implementation, which led to under-spending, but maintained that overall it is a very good project.

She queried the details around the reported 30% expenditure for the ANA testing. She wanted to know if the students delayed in December 2015 and who were supposed to write in January 2016 did in fact write those tests. She asked if the task team had achieved anything.

She enquired whether the issue of the roll-out that was not agreed upon had had a negative effect on the budget for the Kha Ri Gude project.  She noted that the delays that are occurring in so many projects are not warranted, as during the planning phase the Department should anticipate the challenges and time required more accurately.

Ms Madlopha then also stressed that the National Treasury (NT) had called for a review of grants, and asked if the DBE had any plan to prevent the low expenditure of the grants. The grants are supposed to deal with certain challenges such as backlogs, but in cases where there was low spending ・ sometimes as low as 19% - the DBE would have to address the underspending.

Ms Madlopha also requested clarity on the role of the DBE in the learner transport scheme, and how this related to the Department of Transport and provincial departments. She asked how many provinces had approved the learner transport scheme and if it was being regulated.

Lastly she suggested that the progress report of the DBE should be tied to the National Development Plan (NDP) goals.

Mr M Figg (DA) wanted to know what the phrase 壮tate of the art・  meant, and whether this was justified when describing schools that are being built, given the amount the government had to spend repairing recently-built schools. Furthermore he felt that the building projects were taking too long and welcomed interventions to speed up the progress.

Mr Figg pointed out that slide 3 stated that Programme 4 had an appropriation of R11 billion rand, and questioned why, asking the reasons that it had a larger budget than allocated to educational enrichment or to teachers?

In relation to slide 5, he raised a concern that money that is not spent by a province or department is redirected and taken away, and thought that other interventions might be more appropriate.

Mr Figg questioned slide 6, regarding the ANA testing, and suggested that if the DBE was ready to run the tests as early as September, it should surely by now spent closer to target expenditure, and not as little as 30%. He also questioned whether the assessments for testing were not done internally, which raised the question of what was being paid to the service providers. He suggested that the reason the Department may have been so enthusiastic about getting the ANA up and running was not so much for assessment as it was to satisfy the service providers.

Mr Figg questioned the role of the volunteer educators  getting stipends, since he thought volunteers, by definition, were not receiving any payment. Slide 7  mentioned that roll-overs were requested but not granted, and he asked why.

Mr Figg enquired as to the progress of the task team created to address the low spending of the Education Infrastructure Grant in the Eastern Cape area, and thought that this was a better option than merely taking the funds away.

Mr Figg asked how many learners were currently supported by the learner transport scheme.

Mr Figg pointed out that wasteful and irregular expenditure in the DBE has been reported by the Auditor General consistently over the last three years. He wanted to know if the Committee can expect to see a reduction in this wasteful spending. Only the Western Cape received a clean audit.

Mr Figg drew attention to the fact that some schools received their textbooks after the academic year had started and some schools received incorrect numbers of books. The Auditor General had noted that incorrect numbers of books were delivered because of incorrect learner figures in the schools. He pointed out that these incorrect numbers could be erroneous or due to fraud. He therefore asked if there had been any investigation to see why the figures have been incorrect, and whether this had been properly investigated. He questioned why the DBE was supplying books every year as books can last more than a year, and wondered whether this was arranged to suit service providers.

Mr  Figg inquired as to whether there had been any progress following the impasse between South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the Department regarding the ANA tests.

Ms D Senokoanyana (ANC) pointed out that some transfer for programmes 3 and 5 were done in January, and asked if these would be reported in the fourth quarter. She noted that some classes had started later than usual in 2015, and asked why, and who would decide and monitor when classes should start.

She noted that some of the provinces pay the cost of printing the ANA scripts, but then a problem arises when they do not submit their invoices to the national Department on time, and she asked whether the DBE had a method to deal with this and ensure that the problem would not recur.

Ms Senokoanyana pointed out that there may be a problem with the division of the schools into income/quality quintiles. Some schools that are regarded as higher quintile ended up with learners attending who were from extremely poor families, and it might be unfairly assumed that they did not need support from the DBE..

She lastly asked the DBE why there has been such low expenditure for the Mathematics and Science grant. She asked if it was perhaps due to a lack of capacity.

Ms N Louw (EFF) agreed with Mr Figg that government needs other measures when there is underspending apart from simply sending the money back. She asked who would take responsibility for the books that were not delivered on time to schools in the Free State. Like Mr Figg, she brought up the incorrect learner numbers and wanted to know what action had been taken to find and bring to account whoever is responsible. In general, what actions and quality checks in place to regulate the provision of the books?

In a similar vein, she asked if the Department had put measures in place to measure the absenteeism of teachers, even through something like an attendance register.

She noted that the DBE had allegedly offered tenders to contractors without valid licenses. Mrs Louw wanted to know whether disciplinary actions had been taken against the individuals who awarded these tenders.

Ms S Manana (ANC) began by raising the issue of teacher absenteeism. She gave a personal account of her visit to Isifisosethu Secondary School, the second-worst performing school in the country, in Mpumalanga. Upon visiting, she found that the principal himself had not signed the attendance register once over the year. Even those teachers that were signing the register were coming and going as they pleased.

Ms Manana asked if the Department has a contract with the food handlers, and pointed out that the NSNP expenditure was not in line with the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) framework.

Ms Manana expressed concern over the turmoil in the Eastern Cape. She asked the DBE to explain the cause of the uproar and queried if a better solution could not be found that is more mutually agreeable.

Ms Manana added that there are challenges to the learner transport programme, especially in Mpumalanga. For example, it is often found that a learner prefers to be at a school that is not necessarily the closest, creating logistical complications.

Mr A McLaughlin (DA) thanked the Deputy Minister for attending the meeting, but wondered why the Department had brought nine delegates. He also pointed out the contradiction in paying stipends to 宋olunteers・ and asked what the arrangements were. Mr McLaughlin noted that the bulk of expenditure on the Kha Ri Gude project was for stipends paid to volunteers. At the same time, however, the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) spending was only at 13.64%, while the workers in this category are fully paid employees. He noted the reports that the EPWP spending was to be improved, but asked how does the DBE plan to raise the figure of 13%, for it cannot simply hire a huge numbers of workers in the 4th quarter.

Mr McLaughlin noted that the total figure for compensation of employees was on track, at 75.4%. He wanted to know whether  this figure included the stipends to volunteers, as well as the payments to employees under the EPWP. Overall, he wanted the DBE to be upfront on what it was reporting.

Mr McLaughlin noted that workbooks and other goods delivered by government are often classified by departments as 租elivered・ when they are actually sitting in storerooms somewhere and have not reached the schools or students for whom they are intended. He wanted to know if the DBE had a way of measuring and assuring that the books reached their intended final destination.

The Chairperson  stressed that the Committee wanted to be assured that when the Department intervened in a province, it did so not just to speed up the programme but also to build capacity that remained after the intervention team has left.

He drew attention to slide 22 and stated that it is worrying how few of the baselines are met across the provinces. Infrastructure is more than just buildings and often the schools are provided but are not properly connected to the water and roads systems. He requested more detail on the actions by the Department to address this underspending.

Deputy Minister Surty thanked the Members for their honest submissions. In response to Ms Madlopha, he explained that rationalisation is a task that involves considered closing and merging of schools, which has to be justified, so it requires consultations to be done and transport arrangements to be made.  In some cases, particularly in the Western Cape, matters were taken to court as stakeholders felt that consultations had not been sufficient, and this had caused significant delays.

In response to questions on infrastructure spending and capacity in the Eastern Cape, he said that the Department has ensured that in the built environment more than 231 professionals are appointed across the provinces.  This team works very closely with the National Department. The Minister in the past academic year has visited Eastern Cape at least twice, and so had the Deputy Minister, and there would be sustained oversight.  The team in the Eastern Cape now is able to provide images of the different projects, to cost them, and to give specifics about locations and oversight. A comprehensive scoping project is under way, which augers well for the future. 

Mr Surty conceded that it is true that there is a tendency in some departments to show spikes of expenditure in January because they do not want to lose their allocations. In the case of nutrition, it is important to understand the various dimensions. This programme is not only about providing food but also about providing training and equipment, and there will be added expenses in January for the new  handlers.

He then turned to questions about the use of volunteers and the payment of stipends. He stated that the fact that the DBE is able to feed so many children is in part due to the stipend system. A volunteer who is willing to accept a very small stipend is different to an employee. More than 40 000 rural women are involved in this process which enriches the livers of learners. If he/she were an employee there would be conditions of employment such as permanency and legal repercussions. This system allows the DBE to help more than 3 million people and it would not possible if the DBE had to hire them all. 

He admitted that the branch could have been more prepared and taken more initiative to roll out Kha Ri Gude on time. However, although the programme has been delayed it has significantly contributed to the uplifting of the people.

The MST started at 100 and was increased to 500 schools predominantly in disadvantaged areas. They contribute to about 25% of mathematics and science passes above 50% in grade. The character of the programme was then changed to help assist all learners. Thanks to certain sponsors, the DBE owns the copyright to certain textbooks, which allows it to deliver books at R32 per workbook instead of R302. The quality of the books is comparable to those used in private schools. Section 21 schools often receive the allocation of resources, but do not have the capacity to procure the books on time. The lifespan of a textbook is expected to be five years with a minimum of three years. The DBE has insisted on a retrieval policy for these textbooks, with an incentive for schools to recycle the books. The Department is able to deliver 99% of books ・ and that is more than 50 million books. The books are delivered to the schools, and every principal has to sign off for receipt. In Western Cape, there is monitoring to make sure that each book is actually being used by the learner.

He spoke to the figures for migration, saying that in Gauteng, there were as many as 4 000 Grade 1 learners that could not be accommodated, and more than 20 000 learners who had not applied for registration were arriving in Gauteng from other provinces. These provinces may then end up with excess books as the learners migrate. The DBE had developed a system where principals have to report reductions or increases in numbers and also ensured that there are warehouses in every district that can store textbooks should there be a shortage.

Learner transport is a huge logistical task; the DBE transported 386 000 learners in the last quarter across the country. Most provinces have transferred responsibility for learner transport to the Department of Transport. However, the DBE has argued for the implementation of a dedicated person or persons to be seconded to the Department of Transport to help monitor learner transport. This initiative is being progressively implemented uniformly across all provinces.

He assured Members that the DBE  policies and plans have all been aligned with the NDP elements.

In response to Mr Figg, Mr Surty acknowledged the importance of maintenance and stated that maintenance has been added to the infrastructure programme. He defined a 都tate of the art・ school as  a solidly built school that is attractive, is has all of the amenities and supporting amenities; it is furnished, it has a laboratory and a library. He added that the DBE and its maintenance plans are not conducted according to provincial boundaries and party objectives and the DBE acts appropriately wherever action is necessary.

He explained that a harmonious relationship between the unions and the Department had been re-established with regard to the ANA test. The task team had worked well with the DBE, and had developed a proposal which was tabled to the DBE, and which deals with the frequency, scope and internal and external elements of the ANA. The unions have been part of this process, and all of them agree that there is use and benefit in the ANA. In regard to the spending questions, the ANA was not merely about writing the paper. It must firstly be developed, with a team, to make sure it is properly benchmarked, and what followed included the delivery of the paper, the printing of the paper where it cannot be delivered, managing the costs and payments for the printing, and consolidating the work. South African is unique in the scope of this test, and the practice has been commended. It was unfortunate that DBE had had a dispute, but it was looking forward to working collaboratively with the unions. 

With regard to performance agreements, the Quality Management System has been agreed and adopted in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) by all the unions except SADTU, who had not yet signed. There is nothing preventing provinces from implementing and the Western Cape and Gauteng are currently implementing the agreement.

Mr Surty then explained that attendance registers are a requirement in terms of DBE regulations. The DBE has captured more than 11.2 million learners on our records, and it would like to see that a a living database, showing things like results and vaccination history, and the presence of educators live at any time. There is no excuse for an educator not attending school sufficiently.

He responded to Ms Senokoanyana on public works and the Kha Ri Gude. An allocation in terms of the budget is made for the Kha Ri Gude programme. The beneficiary and manager of that allocation is the DBE. The DPW would, where there is  merit in a project that will provide employment opportunities for the youth,  allocate funds in addition to the project's existing budget. He admitted that the DBE should have been more efficient in the management of that process and the lessons should have started on time.

Mr Surty explained that quintiles one, two and three contained the poorest schools, while quintiles four and five are the more affluent schools. The categories had been truncated so that they no longer  distinguish between quintiles one, two and three. It now refers to fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools. The reality is, as a result of settlement and migration, the population within schools that are in areas that were historically affluent have often changed to contain far poorer learners. However, the Act makes clear provision for an MEC to review the category and many schools have had their status changed.

An important development is taking place in MST. The value of technology has been appreciated, and the DBE is trying to increase Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in schools and the digitization of textbooks. There is a host of programs taking place to enhance MST from a technological and expenditure perspective. 

Mr Surty explained the difficulties in the Eastern Cape. The DBE has realized the need to look at rural education using a different approach. There are difficulties in obtaining teachers, and infrastructural constraints in terms of roads, bridges, and other issues. The DBE now has a dedicated branch within the department that deals with rural education. He hoped this branch will make a significant difference, and urged Members to pass information on to the DBE if there are particular issues that arise. In Eastern Cape, the DBE supplies hygienic stations for food provision, as well as training on food handling, hygiene and nutrition.

He responded to Mr McLaughlan that he assumed DBE had brought a larger delegation to ensure that there was a good spread of knowledge to answer questions.

 Ms Molalekoa then addressed the question about the Department redirecting funds in January. Some of these transfers followed projections, and conditional grants were transferred four times a year, including January. The transfer in January is done in order to ensure that there is money for the feeding scheme in the first quarter of the school year, and this was the reason for the peak in this month. IN regard to the questions on over-spending, she explained again that the activities of the programmes do not occur evenly over the year, and that the spending is generally higher in the beginning of the year. Programme three suggests over-spending but in fact this would not happen as the money has simply been provided for NSFAS in advance.

She also addressed questions on service providers for ANA, and repeated that some provinces print their own papers, and others that do not have capacity had their papers delivered by the national Department. The Department needed invoices for what these schools had paid, and where there might appear to be under-spending, the DBE was invariably awaiting invoices.

She assumed that the question about providing work to unlicensed tenderers was referring to unlicensed transport operators, but this was the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

The high expenditure of the national department was due to the start of the ASIDI programme. There was a change in legislation for the functions that can be done by government and private sector, so that the DBE has to do work by tender. The first year spending on the ASIDI project was very low and the Department had only engaged one implementing agent. When the instruction was issued by National Treasury, DBE had to make a decision whether it would continue to under-spend, or appoint other implementing agents while advertising the tenders. That led to the irregularly high spending in the Department, but that had been dealt with, and the DBE was now going out on tender and complying fully.

The Chairperson asked that any unanswered questions must be addressed in writing.

Mr Allan Subban, Director: Enhancement of Programmes and Evaluation of School Performance,DBE, addressed questions on the delivery of textbooks. Representatives of the Public Service Commission had visited the DBE and requested a full presentation. Books were purchased in October, but the books can only be retrieved by November, and any shortages would only be anticipated then. Some provinces and schools might order extra books to address shortages as a result of influx of learners, and other schools would then have an excess of books. The DBE is moving towards a system where there is a core textbook that can be moved so that supply meets demands and there is no surplus or shortage. The electronic system identified has been rolled out in the Free State and is working. This system will solve many of DBE's problems with additional books and shortages of books. He reported that the DBE did have a call centre where complaints can be lodged and remediated. Its  success rate is 99.9%.

He added that the DBE has an online website ・ www.schoolmaster.org.za ・ where one can input the number of the school, to see a records of deliveries and signed delivery notes for that school. The Department will investigate the cases of incorrect quantities ordered with the service providers and the province. Central procurement happens in some provinces, whilst the section 21 schools order the books themselves. DBE will have to check where the problem lies.

The DBE provides very close support and monitoring in provinces, including a sector plan that outlines the entire process for the year, including when books need to be ordered and when top-ups may need to take place, in order to ensure that every child has the requisite number of textbooks.

The Chairperson acknowledged and appreciated the healthy spending and achievements of the DBE. He noted also the importance of the ANA programme and the initiatives that the DBE had taken within the provinces. He reiterated the Committee痴 desire to see the MST spending accelerated towards targets. He also reiterated concerns about the under-spending in infrastructure. He repeatedly emphasized the concept of value for money in departmental spending. He additionally requested that the DBE find time to meet with the Equal Education Initiative. He drew attention to the weak audit reports  of the Department, which suggested that the Committee may need to plan for further meetings with the DBE once the final audit report came out at the end of August 2016. Something must be done to improve the audit performance of the provinces.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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