Bailout for KZN ed­u­ca­tion

FI­NAN­CIAL Of­fi­cial calls for de­part­ment to be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion as fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment leaves chil­dren hun­gry

CityPress - - News - SIPHO MA­SONDO­sondo@city­

The KwaZulu-Natal ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment has lost con­trol of its fi­nances, leav­ing chil­dren with­out food and dis­trict of­fi­cials un­able to prop­erly mon­i­tor schools. An ex­pen­di­ture re­port for the first six months of the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year, which ended in Septem­ber – a copy of which City Press has ob­tained – re­veals that the Na­tional Trea­sury and pro­vin­cial trea­sury had to give the de­part­ment a R908 mil­lion bailout. The re­port shows that much of that money was spent on salaries and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The re­port also shows that not much has changed since the 2014/15 fi­nan­cial year, for which the de­part­ment’s an­nual re­port re­vealed that of­fi­cials used R860 mil­lion meant for in­fra­struc­ture to pay salaries and for ad­min­is­tra­tion. The pro­vin­cial trea­sury in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg then dipped into its con­tin­gency fund, us­ing R355 mil­lion to pay for in­fra­struc­ture such as school build­ings.

The re­sult of this, said a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at the de­part­ment in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, is that over the past two years, the school nu­tri­tion pro­gramme had been so er­ratic that pupils in some in­sti­tu­tions in the Ilembe and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg re­gions had to go with­out food for up to five months.

“They have also capped the num­ber of kilo­me­tres we can travel per month to 1 750km. But this does not work; this is a wide prov­ince,” he said.

“Some man­agers travel 800km in one trip to come to meet­ings at head of­fice or to visit schools. And they have to make four trips a month. This is one of the rea­sons our ma­tric re­sults are de­clin­ing. We are in se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial dis­tress.”

KwaZulu-Natal’s ma­tric pass rate de­clined from 69.7% in 2014 to 60.7% last year.

Two se­nior of­fi­cials in the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment told City Press yes­ter­day that KwaZulu-Natal was spend­ing more than 90% of its bud­get on salaries.

“The Public Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act al­lows de­part­ments to use 80% of their bud­gets for salaries and ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the re­main­ing 20% for in­fra­struc­ture and goods and ser­vices,” one said.

“You can push it to an 85%-15% split, but what has been hap­pen­ing is that they are far be­yond that. At some point, they used more than 90% of their bud­get to pay for salaries. They are now forced to de­lay other things and the prob­lem keeps com­pound­ing.”

The of­fi­cial said the de­part­ment should be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“It was nearly placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­low­ing the same move in Lim­popo in 2011 and in the Eastern Cape in 2012. I don’t know what hap­pened. Any­way, it should be un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

The of­fi­cial and an­other for­mer se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at the ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment in Pre­to­ria said when KwaZulu-Natal Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Peggy Nkonyeni was ap­pointed in 2014, she ap­pointed an au­dit­ing firm to look into the prov­ince’s spend­ing pat­terns, bloated organogram, in­fra­struc­ture and per­son­nel.

Three sources in­side the de­part­ment told City Press that the prov­ince had hired too many staff mem­bers, which was what most of the money was be­ing spent on. Two laid the blame at the door of pow­er­ful teach­ers’ union Sadtu for forc­ing the de­part­ment to cre­ate po­si­tions for which there was no bud­get.

A for­mer na­tional ed­u­ca­tion ex­ec­u­tive said the prov­ince “cre­ated posts with­out per­mis­sion”.

“It is bad fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and bad plan­ning. They were put un­der pres­sure by Sadtu to cre­ate po­si­tions that were not funded.”

Sadtu pro­vin­cial sec­re­tary No­marashiya Caluza said the union did not put pres­sure on de­part­ment head Nkosi­nathi Sishi to ap­point peo­ple to po­si­tions that had not been bud­geted for.

“We put pres­sure on him to fill va­cant po­si­tions. As it is, there are many va­cant posts for sub­ject ad­vis­ers. Ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ist po­si­tions were re­cently filled af­ter be­ing va­cant for many years. We put pres­sure on him to ap­point peo­ple to va­cant po­si­tions be­cause we don’t want our mem­bers to be over­worked.”

The for­mer ex­ec­u­tive said the KwaZulu-Natal de­part­ment “stops spend­ing at the end of the third quar­ter of ev­ery fi­nan­cial year, and waits for the new fi­nan­cial year”.

“When their money comes in, they start by pay­ing the pre­vi­ous three months’ debt. Nor­mally, when a prov­ince is like that, it ought to be placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

A pre­lim­i­nary re­port by Pro­fes­sor John Volmink into the jobs-for-cash scan­dal, which was ex­posed by City Press, re­vealed that KwaZulu-Natal was one of six pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments that had been “cap­tured” by Sadtu.

KwaZulu-Natal ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Muzi Mahlambi said the R860 mil­lion bailout re­ceived in 2014/15 was used for salaries be­cause short­falls had been cre­ated by salary in­creases fol­low­ing col­lec­tive agree­ments. He said he was not aware of the R908 mil­lion fig­ure, but added that what­ever they did with the money, it would be in ac­cor­dance with agree­ments reached with Trea­sury. He de­nied that the de­part­ment was broke.

“You are only broke if you bor­row, but when you repri­ori­tise your own funds, its means that you do have [money],” he said, adding that con­tin­u­ously ask­ing Trea­sury for bailouts was not de­sir­able.

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