Mil­lions blown on au­dits

Ed­u­ca­tion MEC comes un­der fire

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - AN­GELIQUE SER­RAO an­gelique.ser­rao@inl.co.za

THE GAUT­ENG Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion spends R10 mil­lion a year on foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions, fraud­de­tec­tion reviews and ten­der-com­pli­ance reviews in schools.

But school gov­ern­ing body (SGB) mem­bers, who are of­ten the whistleblowers of the al­leged cor­rup­tion, say that ei­ther noth­ing is done after the au­dit, or the SGB is dis­solved, leav­ing them pow­er­less.

Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Panyaza Le­sufi has in­di­cated that the depart­ment had con­ducted 159 au­dits in the past five years. There were 21 done in 2009, 22 in 2010, 38 in 2011, 57 in 2012 and 21 last year.

Le­sufi said 29 prin­ci­pals had been im­pli­cated in wrong­do­ing through the re­ports.

Th­ese de­tails emerged dur­ing a de­bate in the leg­is­la­ture.

The foren­sic au­dits are kept hid­den from the pub­lic, and not even the schools them­selves are al­lowed ac­cess to them.

Whis­tle-blow­ers have, how­ever, shown The Star three foren­sic au­dits re­cently con­ducted at schools in Gaut­eng that ap­pear to show wide­spread fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety and mis­man­age­ment.

Of the schools – Glen­vista High School, Park­dale Pri­mary School and Brak­pan High School – only Glen­vista’s au­dit had been made pub­licly avail­able, and this was be­cause a par­ent ini­ti­ated a Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act ap­pli­ca­tion to get the au­dit.

Another par­ent said even though the au­dit showed fi­nan­cial prob­lems at the school, noth­ing was done and a sec­ond au­dit was then com­mis­sioned. The SGB at Brak­pan High School was dis­solved after the au­dit and the school was placed un­der ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I don’t know why we are even do­ing th­ese foren­sic au­dits,” a par­ent at one of the schools said. “We are wast­ing pub­lic money be­cause the rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­ports are not be­ing fol­lowed through.”

A teacher at a school that had a foren­sic au­dit com­pleted last year after he blew the whis­tle on al­leged em­bez­zle­ment of school funds said they had never seen the au­dit re­sults.

The teacher said he found that the au­thor­i­ties had tar­geted him in­stead of act­ing against the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor after he blew the whis­tle, and he ul­ti­mately lost his job.

“I re­ported what was hap­pen­ing at the school to var­i­ous de­part­ments. I went to the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor and the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. I was told in the end that I was the prob­lem, and I was forced from my job,” the teacher said.

In re­cent weeks, DA provin­cial ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Khume Ra­mulifho has asked Le­sufi a num­ber of ques­tions in the leg­is­la­ture about the sta­tus of fi­nan­cial au­dits con­ducted at schools.

The MEC said 29 prin­ci­pals had been im­pli­cated in wrong­do­ing through the re­ports.

Le­sufi also said R10m a year was used for the foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions, fraud-de­tec­tion reviews and ten­der-com­pli­ance reviews.

Some of the find­ings against schools this year were for gov­er­nance and fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment, non-com­pli­ance with poli­cies and pro­ce­dures, lack of sup­port­ing ev­i­dence for ex­pen­di­ture, and ten­der ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

Dur­ing a leg­is­la­ture de­bate this week, Ra­mulifho said he be­lieved the MEC was pro­tect­ing fraud­sters and cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

“School gov­ern­ing bod­ies which ex­posed th­ese fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties are be­ing dis­solved and are de­nied ac­cess to th­ese re­ports,” he stated.

“The MEC is quick to dis­solve the SGBs but takes no ac­tion against the real of­fend­ers.

“The depart­ment is fail­ing to pro­tect whis­tle-blow­ers or take a firm stand against cor­rupt of­fi­cials,” Ra­mulifho said.

Le­sufi replied that he would try to make sure that those who had been iden­ti­fied as per­pe­tra­tors would face the con­se­quences.

Ra­mulifho asked that Le­sufi put mea­sures in place to pro­tect any whis­tle-blow­ers. He also re­quested that th­ese re­ports be made pub­lic.

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