The Department of Basic Education (DBE) briefed the Committee on the progress and state of readiness of the Kha Ri Gude (KRG) programme. The 2015 achievements of the programme included the registration of 348 228 learners, with 298 000 Learner Assessment Portfolios (LAPs) verified and moderated. To date, just over 4.2 million of the 4.7 million learners had completed the programme. Between 2008 and 2015, KRG had changed the lives of up to 326 307 volunteers, providing almost R2.7 billion in incomes and by giving them job opportunities.
Some progress had been made in implementing the Auditor General of South Africa’s (AGSA) findings for the 2015/16 financial year. It had been found that R44.3 million paid to volunteers had been fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Of the 6 173 cases identified by AGSA, 90 had been related to volunteers with no learners who had been fully paid stipends amounting to R282 297 for the first two months of the programme. A further 1 344 cases were linked to learners who had died during the programme, involving an amount of R12 million. There were still 4 738 cases involving R39 million which were yet to be analysed and investigated.
Members were concerned about what would happen to those employed and participating in the KRG programme once it came to completion in 2017 after its ten-year lifespan. They asked what the DBE had learned from the implementation of such a prestigious programme. Questions were also raised about the allegations of corruption in the programme, and the effectiveness of the monitoring systems to deal with this issue.
The Department then briefed the Committee on the ‘Jobs for Sale’ issue, dealing with irregular appointments to school posts. Its presentation highlighted the findings and recommendations that had come out of a two-stage investigation, along with the comments and inputs following consultations with stakeholders.
A DA Member asserted that the key finding of the report was that the education system had been captured by the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), which was in control in six of the nine provinces. He quoted from the report that “in most districts, SADTU was a potent and often decisive presence,” and the Minister had shared this sentiment in Parliament as well. A big concern was that while the first part of the forensic investigation had been undertaken by a reputable and independent company, the second phase was being undertaken by the Department of Justice (DoJ). Why had the decision been taken to shift the forensic investigation from an independent and reputable service provider to a government department? The whole issue dealt essentially with state capture by a union, and he thought it was appropriate that some entity outside of the state should handle the investigation, and not people inside the state, who may also be captured by SADTU and other elements. The presentation had shown no evidence of wrong-doing during the second phase, whereas during the first phase there had been quite strong findings of evidence of corruption, and the need for taking further steps. Was this perhaps because of the shift in investigators?
The Minister responded that such an accusation was patronising and offensive, and would not be entertained. She said that the DBE had no interest in weakening the education system.
Kha Ri Gude Literacy Programme
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General (DG): Department of Basic Education (DBE), briefed the Committee on the progress and 2016/17 financial state of readiness of the Kha Ri Gude (KRG) programme.
The KRG had received six awards. The Ubungcweti Award and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Award for communicative teaching materials in 2009, the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) Award for the programme’s 11 official language materials. as well as Braille and South African sign language in 2010, the Expanded Public Works Kamoso Award, as well as the Adult Learners’ Week Outstanding Achievement Award in 2012, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Confucius Award in 2016.
KRG had enabled learners and educators to form innovative communities which had seen participants become involved in a singing team in Limpopo, which sings at churches and other functions, and the Siyakhulisa KRG Bakery Co-op in the Eastern Cape, for which a business plan was developed, and pottery and beadwork projects in North West and Limpopo respectively. KRG participants were also involved in the Community Work Programme (CPW) as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), getting women involved in vegetable gardening.
The 2015 achievements of the programme included the registration of 348 228 learners, with 298 000 Learner Assessment Portfolios (LAPs) verified and moderated by the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 17 111 LAPs were submitted after SAQA’s moderation and verification, and 33 117 learners did not submit LAPs or exited the programme. The verification report was set to be presented to the SAQA board for approval on 1 December 2016. 42 462 volunteers had been appointed, of whom 1 560 had disabilities.
To date, just over 4.2 million of the 4.7 million learners had completed the programme. Between 2008 and 2015, KRG had changed the lives of more than 326 000 volunteers by giving them job opportunities, enabling them to earn an amount of R2.683 billion between them.
Some progress had been made in implementing the Auditor General of South Africa’s (AGSA) findings for the 2015/16 financial year. It had found R44.3 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure had been paid to volunteers. It had become clear, however, that this amount was not actually a fixed amount and that the assessment mechanism used by the AGSA had not necessarily reflected the true figures if one took into account the case by case monitoring systems within the DBE. An internal investigation had been instituted to confirm the actual amount involved. Of the 6 173 cases identified by AGSA, it was found that 90 cases related to volunteers with no learners who had been fully paid stipends amounting to R282 297 for the first two months of the programme. The DBE had since recovered R281 838 of the amount with R459 still to be recovered. 1 344 cases had been linked to learners who had died during the programme, amounting to R12 million. The DBE was still in the process of determining the actual stipends which had been paid per case, as per the payment sliding scale. There were still 4 738 cases involving an amount of R39 million which were yet to be analysed and investigated.
Mr Mweli said efforts had been made to strengthen the processes of verifying data of volunteers and learners. A two-phased system of verification had been established to address this. Information and communication technology (ICT) had been implemented to link the systems of the DBE with those of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and old KRG databases had been utilised to determine if learners had previously been part of the KRG and were therefore being “recycled”.
The monitoring process had also been strengthened through the convening of a national workshop on 26 October 2016 to train coordinators in measures to implement the AGSA’s recommendations. 61 coordinators and 1 211 supervisors had been trained to conduct monitoring. A monitoring schedule, as well as tools, were also developed and circulated to volunteers. Provincial coordinators had since started to report as well.
The DBE had also presented the report on fruitless and wasteful expenditure to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), and accepted its recommendation to involve the HAWKS in the conduct of a forensic investigation into the matter.
Regarding AGSA’s finding on irregular expenditure relating to the appointment of the SAB&T project management group by KRG, a decision had been taken to appoint an external service provider, Cingco Consulting Group, to investigate the supply chain management processes that had led to the irregular appointment of SAB&T. In addition, a letter had been issued requesting that SAB&T confirm, in writing, the allegations about its irregularities in providing services to other government departments. SAB&T had subsequently responded by denying these allegations, and letters detailing this had been sent to the Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee which had raised the issue.
In 2016, 206 863 learners, including those in the disability sector, had been captured and verified by the DHA, and ‘recycled’ learners had been verified through the old KRG database. A total of 88 137 learners had been found to be either deceased, invalid or recycled after the two verification processes. Accordingly, measures to improve the credibility of the database, as well as dealing with the findings of the AGSA, had been implemented.
Graduates of the programme were being advised to enrol in adult education classes, and the KRG database had been submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to use for recruitment into the adult education classes.
Regarding KRG’s state of readiness, it could be reported that the curriculum developed in 2007 was still in place and would continue to be used in the programme. Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) and administration documents had been delivered to volunteers. 15 120 registration and administration forms had been delivered to learners, and 1 080 to volunteers. The LTSM items printed by government printers included 15 000 educator stationery packs and 295 000 plastic bags, and 180 000 learner stationery packs and plastic bags. Additionally, 982 255 workbooks had been printed by government printers for learner assessment.
With regard to institutional capacity, six provincial coordinators had been appointed. Only provinces with 20 000 or more learners qualified for management by a coordinator. Three provinces, Free State, Western Cape and Northern Cape had fewer than 20 000 learners each and therefore did not meet the threshold. 13 300 learning sites existed, and had been identified nationally. 14 862 volunteers had been trained between August and September. Furthermore, ministerial road shows had been held in eight provinces from June 2015 to August 2015 in preparation for the 2016/17 programme.
With respect to service providers, the contract with SAB&T for the management and administration of the programme had been extended until September 2017. A new service provider, Bongani Rainmakers, had been appointed for picking, packing, distribution and collection of workbooks, stationery and administration documents. The Gauteng Department of Education had also agreed to provide a warehouse for the LAPs for five years up until 2019. The workbooks printed by the government printers had been delivered to the service provider.
The current programme of KRG classes had begun on 1 November 2016 and would run until 23 March 2017. Classes for learners with disabilities had commenced at the same time, but would run until 4 May 2017. SAQA would continue to moderate and verify the LAPs in July 2017.
The areas of risk included the implementation of KRG policy without approval and compliance to procedures, the employment of inappropriate volunteers -- which included those employees employed in the government and private sectors -- the employment of unqualified volunteers, or employment through fraudulent misrepresentation. To deal with the issue of recruiting valid learners, the DHA and DBE systems had been linked to identity numbers and their disability statuses.
Other areas of risk included the non-retrieval of Braille equipment, since 2016/17 was the last year of the programme. It had been decided that volunteers would not be paid the last two stipends until the return of the Braille machines. Stricter monitoring measures would also be employed in order to monitor the risk of non-payment of the transport allowance. Further, to combat fraud and corruption, volunteers would be requested to provide medical certificates of learners to ensure there was no manipulation of disabled volunteers. Coordinators and volunteers would also be warned during training of the prohibition against nepotism and its consequence of removal from the programme.
In terms of the management of contracts of service providers, specifically SAB&T, there would be bi-weekly monitoring meetings, analysis of the section 40 monthly reports, analysis of the material requisition forms and the proof of delivery forms, verification of learners through the DHA, the running of a DBE quality assurance capturing process, and the implementation of consequence management.
The Chairperson referred to the six months of the programme, and asked if December would be included, although practically it did not account for much actual programme time, and whether for this reason the programme should not perhaps be extended to June in 2017.
Mr Mweli responded that ideally the programme should run for six months, but the verification process had taken a substantial amount of time. It had, however, been agreed that the number of days that learners should be contacted would remain, or even be spread, over the weeks that had been allocated to the programme. The December and school holidays would not be affected by this arrangement either.
Mr G Davis (DA) asked about the 500 000 or so learners who would not be benefiting from the programme. He asked what would happen to them, or any other persons still in need of a literacy programme, once the KRG programme was finalised.
Only 298 000 out of the 430 000 targeted learners had actually benefited from the programme. He requested an explanation for this shortfall.
On fruitless and wasteful expenditure, he said this was a cause for huge concern, because it seemed that some volunteers were paid for classes that they did not teach. According to the report, R39 million of the R44 million still needed to be investigated, and he wanted to know when this investigation would commence, when a finding would be produced and who was conducting the investigation.
Ms N Mashabela (EFF)asked the same question.
The DG said that investigations into fruitless and wasteful expenditure were being carried out by the Lion Foundation, working with the Auditor General’s team, which had met yesterday with Dr Mamiki Maboya, DDG: DBE, to come to an understanding of what the targets and figures should be.
In terms of time frames, on or before the end of December was the expected time when the investigations’ findings would be available. This was a matter of priority, and accordingly colleagues had been asked to defer their leave for this matter.
Mr Davis said that he did not think it was satisfactory that only an internal investigation was being undertaken, and asked whether the DBE had been in contact with the HAWKS, and what the status of that investigation was.
Mr Mweli said that after having been in contact with SCOPA, the asset and forfeiture unit had been instructed to get in touch with the DBE. A meeting would be conducted with them in the coming weeks to commence a forensic investigation.
Mr Davis asked what kind of consequences would be taken against the 90 volunteers that had been found guilty of defrauding the Department.
It was concerning that the R44 million had been identified by the AGSA, and not by the Department’s internal processes. Accordingly, he wanted to know what was defective with the Department’s internal processes, so that such a large amount of fruitless and wasteful and irregular expenditure was not being picked up.
Mr Mweli responded that the design of the programme was that it was being run from Tshwane and essentially had coordinators in the other provinces. It was also discovered in the design that it needed to have been linked to institutions in the sector, which was what was being done with the Second Chance programme. A second defect was the internal process not being as strong as it should have been. There had been approval from the Minister for the appointment of a new DG who would be setting up an audit team, because ideally the forensic investigation should be done by a forensic investigation arm of the internal monitoring unit. Since the unit did not have this type of capacity, it would now have to be sourced from outside.
Mr Davis said it had been a great honour when the programme was awarded a UNESCO prize some months ago, but this had been tainted quite severely when the report had come out that this had been a source of fraud in the Department. He wanted to know whether it had been declared to UNESCO and the judging panel that there was potential fraud and corruption in the programme, if it had been known at the time.
Mr Mweli responded that at the time of this matter, he had no inkling of any corruption or fraudulent activities in relation to KRG. He added that even now, the HAWKS were still going to investigate. All that was being done now was the recovery of money through a sliding scale system.
Ms J Basson (ANC) applauded the programme for supporting persons with disabilities. The programme was successful in job creation and providing incomes, but she wanted to know what would happen to those who had previously been empowered by this income.
On the state of readiness, her concern was that in provinces such as the Northern Cape, which was a small province, 5 000 was a lot of people to be deprived of the benefit of a coordinator because of the threshold of 20 000 participants.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) said that if one looked at the programme, and specifically Limpopo, a lot was concentrated in one region. She wanted to know what was being done in other much poorer and needy areas. In the previous financial year, nearly R62 million had been allocated to the EPWP, and she wanted to know exactly how this was used.
Mr Mweli said that the programme was spread across a wide number of areas, and that the pictures in the presentation had been from what the coordinators had been able to submit.
Ms Van der Walt also asked about the determination of the figure in respect of ‘ghost’ learners. Last year, it was said to be R44.3 million -- was this year better or worse? She asked for clarity on the term ‘invalid’ used to describe some learners. In the risk and mitigation section, there were categories given, but no actual figures. She wanted to know, for instance, how many unqualified volunteers were in the programme and how many instances of nepotism, as identified by the AGSA, were on-going.
Mr Mweli said that since the implementation of the more rigorous recruitment process, there were no longer any unqualified volunteers in the programme
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) asked how the DBE was dealing with corruption. Had a communication strategy had been developed to communicate the work that was being done through KRG to the media and people of South Africa?
Mr Mweli responded that it had shocked him to come to learn that the DBE was pictured as a corrupt Department, and that the Member had a point in mentioning a communication strategy to turn this around. There was zero tolerance for corruption in the DBE, and that was why measures had been taken against it.
Ms Mokoto asked what lessons the DBE had learned during the implementation of KRG, and how this would shape future programmes.
Mr Mweli said that a myriad of lessons had been learned from the implementation of KRG, and would be especially beneficial in the implementation and operation of the Second Chance programme.
Ms Mokoto wanted to know how far the DBE was going to go to ensure that strong monitoring and support continued to exist in the programme.
Mr Mweli responded by saying two slides in the presentation had been dedicated to illustrating how the monitoring programme would be strengthened, but that the DBE would always welcome the recommendations of the Committee on this issue.
The Chairperson asked about the plan for those who had ‘fallen through the cracks’ of the programme.
Ms Angie Motshega, Basic Education Minister, said that KRG was meant to run for five years but it had now gone beyond ten years because there had been worry that the target had not been reached in the more formative years. By prolonging something that had initially been developed to last for five years was perhaps the reason why the problems had been encountered. What had become problematic was that the number of people who wanted to come into the programme had been exhausted. The programme had outlived its time and perhaps this should be accepted. It had begun to pick up many unnecessary problems.
Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister, DBE, said that the eight incentives of basic education would continue to exist after the finalisation of the programme. What had made KRG so successful in terms of its impact and reach was that participants did not have to go to a college to receive particular training. Its flexibility and adaptability was also what made the programme attractive.
What had become very important in engagement with the Department of Public Works was how data was driving quality education at the school level. There were talks about having volunteers who would assist schools in terms of gathering data so that many of these qualified graduates would have the opportunity of serving schools and at the same time continue their studies to become professionals.
‘Jobs For Sale’: Findings and recommendations
The Chairperson said this would be a continuation of the presentation to the Committee which had taken place on 27 May 2016 at which the Committee had first been informed about the outcomes of the report of the investigation into the allegations in the media, as instructed by the Minister. At the time, there had been 81 outstanding cases and since then, a further 35 cases had been added to the investigation.
Minister Motshega said that in May, the report had only just been received and nothing had been thoroughly processed. Since then, the DBE had institutionalised the recommendations, informed Cabinet, engaged with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), and highlighted the need for provinces to adhere to the requirements and regulations regarding the recruitment of teachers.
Mr Mweli said that because of the sensitive nature of the matter, it had been appropriate to appoint a service provider to undertake the forensic investigation into possible irregular expenditure or criminal activities, and to report to the task team on these investigations. The contracted service provider had to be an auditing firm that had expertise in both auditing as well as human resource (HR) matters within the government sector, and after due process, Deliottes had been appointed as the service provider.
The Ministerial Task Team (MTT) had submitted its report to the Minister, and it had been released on 20 May 2016. Due to the number of cases that had been referred late, the MTT was further afforded an opportunity to continue with forensic investigations on the outstanding and new allegations.
Subsequent to the release of the MTT report, the Cabinet had been briefed on the report and its findings, and the Portfolio Committee had been briefed on the actions to be taken to remedy the challenges emanating from the report. Presentations had been made to both the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) and the Heads of Education Committee (HEDCOM).
There were 16 recommendations in the MTT’s final report, containing general and specific findings. The second phase of the MTT report contained a forensic aspect which consisted of 39 specific recommendations and findings.
Before the MTT report was released, consultations had taken place in April 2016 with the Minister, teachers’ unions and national school governing bodies. Stakeholders had requested that the Minister postpone the release of the report and grant them opportunity to refine their submissions. The Minister had agreed to this and had postponed the release of the report by 20 days.
Some of the findings of the report were very general but the last part of the report dealt with the forensics, which called for a very specific report.
Sixteen findings and recommendations had been identified and reported. These had included the finding of the exertion of improper influence by officials or representatives of one union, allegiance to a single teacher union, no action being taken against teachers and other informants who had displayed great courage in reporting gross abuse, the absence of regulation, flaws in the process of recruitment, the interventionist attitude of unions, cadre deployment and lack of an overriding philosophy.
The recommendations overall called for swift action to instil confidence in the sector. Some of them included legislative and constitutional amendments, strict adherence to legislation, strengthened monitoring and tighter procedures.
The MTT was in consultation with nine other stakeholders. It had met with the Cabinet Committee for Social Protection, Community and Human Development, which had recommended that Cabinet note the MTT report and approve that the Minister of Basic Education provide it with government’s preliminary response in line with Constitutional imperatives and relative legislation during the Cabinet meeting in April 2016.
The MTT had met with Cabinet, who had supported the process intended to deal with the findings and recommendations of the MTT report.
The MTT had met with the CEM, who said an urgent review of appointment procedures and legislative amendments to address the recommendations must take place. It commented that the process to amend the South Africa Schools Act (SASA), 1996 (Act No. 84 of 1996) provided an opportunity to consider the recommendation related to the powers of the school governing bodies (SGBs) in the appointment of teachers. It said that amendments must be well thought through to ensure that the sections of the education sector which functioned well were not destabilised, that SGBs should not be entirely excluded from the process of appointing principals, that the DBE and provincial education departments (PEDs) had to ensure that the best teachers and principals were appointed to avoid perpetuating the challenges in the system, and that some of the recommendations of the MTT required thorough interrogation.
The sector’s response had been that the PEDs and the DBE should immediately start with the implementation of the recommendations of the forensic investigation and continue to report regularly on the implementable recommendations. Moreover, the DBE should provide a platform for in-depth discussions on the findings and recommendations, both at the CEM and HEDCOM, and that it should revise the current process through which principals were appointed.
The MTT had met with HEDCOM, who had commented that further work would be needed to proceed, and that criminal matters should be pursued without waiting for the MTT report to be concluded.
The MTT met with the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), who had held that the MTT had failed to sustain an open and enquiring state of mind, that its enquiries had gone beyond the media reports, and that it had made observations outside of its terms of reference.
In a meeting with the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), the organisation had made reference to recommendations 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 14 and 16, and expressed support for them. It had not, however, supported recommendation 6, which dealt with amending the South African Schools Act (SASA) and the Employment Equity Act (EEA) on the powers of the SGB. Lastly, with regard to recommendation 7, it wanted panels to include educators of suitable rank and experience.
In a meeting with the Suid Afrikaanse Onderwyser Unie (SAOU), the union had expressed support for recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14 and 16. It had also objected to recommendation 6, saying that it believed that SGBs should have the power to make recommendations with regard to the appointment of teachers. Recommendation 7 was also only partially supported as far as the principle that principals must comply with the minimum requirements of suitability, academic acumen, experience and professional competencies. Recommendation 11 was not supported, because SAOU did not support that there was a separate union for office-based educators, as this was in conflict with the constitutional principle of freedom of association. Recommendation 14 was also only partially supported in so far as having a broad underlying philosophy.
In a meeting with the National Teachers’ Union (NATU), the stakeholder mentioned that it believed that the fear of reprisals acted as a deterrent in preventing many potential witnesses from coming forward to testify.
The MTT had met with the Professional Educators’ Union (PEU), which had supported most of the recommendations and especially the call to end cadre deployment.
In a meeting with the National Association of School Governing bodies (NASGB) and the Federation of Governing Bodies for South African Schools (FEDSAS) and others, concern was raised over the recommendation of taking away the powers of the SGBs in the appointment process.
With regard to the progress in the implementation of the recommendations, the DBE had sifted and classified the recommendations and had written letters to the PEDs of the six provinces implicated on the MTT report -- Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, North West, Limpopo and Kwa-Zulu Natal -- to implement the recommendations.
The first phase relating to the 81 cases identified initially had either been closed or was awaiting reports. The second phase dealing with the later 39 cases had been finalised in September 2016 and were similarly either closed, awaiting reports or calls for no further action.
The DBE had resolved to establish a task team to follow up on all the outstanding cases with a view to monitoring and supporting provinces to finalise them.
The Chairperson pointed out the irony that in case 35 of the second phase, for instance, where the allegation had been that a principal had been appointed despite being unqualified, the action taken had been to grant that principal a bursary to improve the principal’s qualification. The Chairperson said that she believed that in some cases, the action taken had been questionable and that a close eye would be kept on these issues. It had not been convincing enough to prove that the matter at hand was being dealt with.
Mr M Mabika (NFP) said that he was not sure about the progress of these recommendations because in his opinion, there was still a lot to be clarified. Starting with recommendation 6, where it was said that the SGB should not be allowed to deal with appointments from post level upwards, this implied to him that they would be left with only the appointment of post level ones. This recommendation was inherently contradictory because governing bodies, by virtue of their purpose to govern schools, dealt directly with school management, and by saying that they would be precluded from having a say in the persons who would be put in the position of school management did not make sense. The SGB represented the school community and had a direct interest in how the school was managed.
Deputy Minister Surty responded that the power of SGBs was not being taken away, and that there was nothing in the legislation which called for this. However, with regard to the appointment of principals, there had been wide agreement that SGBs should not be excluded from the process, but that the authority in the appointment process should be shifted to the HODs, because the appointment of the principal was so integral to the efficient operation and management of the school.
With regard to recommendation 8, at face value it sounded logical to say that post level educators would not be allowed to be promoted, because there were stages which needed to be undergone before one was ready. However, as things stood, there was no school where principals were specifically trained for principalship. Principals were teachers, trained through university, who over years acquired experience and eventually became eligible for principal positions. If this recommendation was to be applied, it could become problematic. For instance, if one took small schools where there was a principal but no deputy, what one found was that there would be one educator who acted or assisted as an HOD or deputy principal because of their experience. When the principal retired or passed on, what would then happen was that it would be said that this educator would not be eligible or adequately qualified to be principal because he or she was merely post level one.
The Minister said that the training of principals had been quite a problem. One found a junior person promoted to principal over and above a person who had been acting as a principal, and this created a lot of tension in the school environment. Those were the things that provinces were expected to deal with.
Deputy Minister Surty mentioned the example of the Ermelo case, in which the Constitutional Court had found that the locus of the authority in terms of admission, policy and language in general lay with the HODs. What the national department did not want was having the provinces and departments applying the laws in different ways. It would be preferable to have a collaborative input, and therefore to get the legal advisors of all the departments to advise in a very practical way how to deal with issues faced on a day to day basis so that there was a uniform approach to address the particular realities. This had resulted in the drafting of legislation which covered a whole range of issues, including home learning, who paid for it, what the responsibility of the SGB was, who carried out inspections and who paid for inspection.
The issue of principals, for example, was a common problem. There had already been a discussion and consensus some years ago that principals should be appointed because they were professional leaders and managers of institutions of learning. Moreover, they played a very important role in the functionality of institutions, and therefore needed to be competent in terms of knowledge, skills, qualifications, experience and other sets of competency skills in financial management, communications, and democratic management practices. Therefore, in terms of the Department’s training programmes, this had been included as part of the training outcomes for principals.
On recommendation 10, Mr Mabika asked what about circuit managers. He said that circuit managers were also unionised. District officials who were involved in the process were also members of the unions.
On recommendation 12, there should be no political appointments or cadre deployments, and one wondered how this would be implemented. Since the unions were known to be politically aligned, one would find that a prominent union member at the provincial level would be deployed as the district director, and still be a member of the union. Once a member of a union became a district director, then obviously members from that union were going to be at an advantage. Mr Mabika said this concern was coming from experience, since he had been a teacher for several years. As long as unions were politically aligned, he wondered how the cadre deployment issue would be addressed.
The Chairperson said that while criticising the report, Members should also attempt to put forward suggestions to resolve the issues raised.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked how the DBE made sure that the officials adhered to the policies and laws, and how they went about enacting consequences.
Mr Davis said that a lot of the recommendations in the report were going to require political will. The DBE, as well as the Committee, knew that SADTU was allied with the ruling party, so whatever happened, if the DBE had to deal with the destructive nature of SADTU, it would require some political will on the part of the DBE. He was looking forward to what the response to this would be, and how equilibrium would be instilled in the schooling system.
Mr Davis asked about Parliamentary procedure. He asked that the Minister formally table this report in Parliament so that this Committee could deliberate, in its own time, the findings and recommendations in the report so that it could make recommendations to Parliament. This was particularly important, because the report was in the national interest and affected all of the children of the country. As public representatives, they had a duty to formally scrutinise the report and take it to the House and discuss it there.
On the forensic investigation, he said that a big concern was that while the first part of the forensic investigation had been undertaken by Deloittes, a reputable and independent company which dealt professionally with investigations, the second phase was being undertaken by the Department of Justice (DoJ). The concern here was that it was not clear whether the DoJ was either reputable or independent. He wanted to know why the decision had been taken to shift the forensic investigation from an independent and reputable service provider to a government department. The whole issue of “Jobs for Sale” dealt essentially with state capture by a union, and he thought it was appropriate that some entity outside of the state should handle the investigation and not people inside of the state, who may also be captured by SADTU and other elements. Looking through the presentation, one could see that no evidence of wrong-doing was found during the second phase, whereas during the first phase there were quite strong findings of evidence of corruption, and the need for taking further steps. Was this perhaps because of the shift in investigators?
Instead of following recommendations 1 and 2, it seemed that what the DBE was doing was simply passing the buck back to the provinces, saying that the provinces must deal with the police and the provinces must undertake disciplinary action against the officials. The problem here, however, was that those provinces had been captured by SADTU. He asked why such responsibility would be sent back to the provinces who, by definition, were captured by SADTU, to investigate SADTU members. He believed that there was a blatant conflict of interest there, and that the Minister should be taking responsibility and ownership in ensuring those cases were investigated and the guilty parties were brought to book. He wanted to know, essentially, why there had been such a shift in responsibility.
Concerning the nexus report raised by the DG, what had been found was that there were allegations of corruption in the North West, and a report had been commissioned by the head of the department. The MTT had found that the actions of the HOD at the time were untenable and that the HOD had not taken any action against those implicated in the corruption. He wanted to know what action was being taken against the HOD in the North West, and whether that HOD had been in violation of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which stipulated that it was the duty of a person who was aware of any corruption to report that corruption.
Mr Davis said that the key finding of the report was that the education system had been captured by SADTU. SADTU was in control in six of the nine provinces. He quoted that “in most districts, SADTU was a potent and often decisive presence”. The elephant in the room could not be ignored. All of these events could not be looked at as isolated incidents, and were not the end of the story. They were symptoms of a cause, which was the dominance of SADTU in South Africa’s education system.
Looking at the DBE’s response to the recommendations, the only time the DBE came out very strongly in favour of a recommendation was to strip away the powers of the SGBs. He said that if one weakened the SGBs, a key check and balance on SADTU was removed. SADTU dominated the departments, and this was essentially just handing over the education system to SADTU. He said the final question was, where was the political will by the DBE to deal with SADTU? There were three recommendations in the report which dealt with the powers of SADTU, namely recommendations 10, 11 and 12.
He quoted the Minister as saying earlier that “there was nothing wrong with cadre deployment”. He said that this was known ANC policy, in order to employ loyalists. This was one of the key reasons why the state was failing. He asked what the plan to deal with the capture of the education system by SADTU was, because there was no plan which could be seen from this report.
Mr Davis end by asking whether the Minister had the political will to deal with SADTU.
The Chairperson said that everyone interpreted things differently. She maintained that there was nowhere in the report where there was talk of capture by SADTU.
The Minister responded by saying that she humbly appealed to Members not to patronise the DBE delegates when they came to meetings. There was a difference between robust discussion and patronising. She found difficulty in the fact that the DBE had come and presented a report, but Members had the audacity to question its integrity. If there were issues Members wanted the DBE to account for, these should be put forward as such and the DBE would approach the Committee and report on them. The DBE had no interest in weakening the system. She asked what Mr Davis’s obsession with SADTU was, since he had been all over the media saying that SADTU needed to be accounted for. This report had not been about SADTU, but about the “Jobs for Sale” report. She asked Members not to act condescendingly.
The Minister also raised issue with the fact that the independence and integrity of the DoJ had been questioned.