Basic education under fire
THE department of basic education is spending money but it has no proof, in the form of reports, of most of the work done.
This damning indictment was delivered by the office of the auditor-general (A-G) in parliament yesterday in its assessment of the department's reports.
Corporate executive in the audit division of the auditor-general, Jan van Schalkwyk, told parliament that there were no clear indications that the department was doing anything right.
He said good financial management meant nothing if the department could not prove service delivery and the proper use of taxpayers' money.
In the report presented, which covered the 2011/2012 financial year, the A-G found that the national department and most of the provincial departments were failing to adequately report on their delivery targets.
"You may find a situation where money has been spent and you can find all the documentation and on the face of it [it] looks appropriate but you need to have right next to it a performance objective that tells whether that money has actually reached the goal that is set," he said.
He said on the face of it, and in light of the unqualified audit, the department appeared to be making strides in tackling financial mismanagement and improving on delivery targets.
"You start off with a picture that is pretty okay, you tend to feel very comfortable . but we need to know the outcome. If we had to comment on the validity, completeness and accuracy of performance reporting we would not agree with what is on the table, that's how strong that statement is," Van Schalkwyk said.
However, citing an example of provincial failings, Van Schalkwyk said that in the previous financial year, the Eastern Cape had not even been able to provide a service delivery report.
This showed a "desperate situation", he said.
The provincial department is under Section 100 intervention, meaning it is being temporarily run by the national department.
In Limpopo, the department of basic education has been dogged by scandal over the non-delivery of textbooks.
A presidential task team report on the late delivery of textbooks in the province has recommended that director-general Bobby Soobrayan be investigated for alleged indecisiveness after he was alerted to a possible shortage of pupil support materials by publishers.
Senior manager in the business division of the auditor-general's office, Godfrey Diale, said school infrastructure was a key example of where the department was failing to report.
"If they can't get these fundamental areas of infrastructure right, what are we saying of these funds we are injecting?" Diale asked.
Other key focus areas where progress reports were not filed included the HIV/Aids life skills education, the school nutrition programme, the pupil transport scheme and the allocation of funds to schools.
Van Schalkwyk said failure to report on service delivery could be a result of staff vacancies, unskilled personnel and a lack of understanding of accounting policies.
However, he did not discount possible corruption by officials.
"Are there any indicators in this report that deal with corruption? Yes, the fact that the department can't accurately report on performance in its own departmental environment and the sector," he said.
The department declined to comment, saying it will make a presentation in parliament today to respond to the issues.