Education pumps millions into fraud-riddled programme

Sakhile Mokoena

The Mpumalanga education department has continued to pump millions into the scholar transport programme despite findings that it was riddled with fraud.

This had increased the costs of running the programme, causing the department to overspend.

A forensic investigation into the multimillion-rand programme in the province, found that some bus operators and government officials had been defrauding the department by inflating the number of pupils ferried.

The costs of transporting the pupils had, therefore, skyrocketed from R10million in 2001 to about R143million last year.

On Friday, MEC for education Siphosezwe Masango announced a more than R145million budget for the 2007-08 financial year.

A report on the investigations commissioned by the executive council has since been handed over to the department.

The probe covers the period starting in 2001 and ending in 2006.

"The report has identified serious fraudulent activities by several officials in the provincial education department who were collaborating with transport service providers.

"It has further identified the lack of compliance with service level agreements and other related transgressions," said Masango.

Masango said that the government would act on the findings of the report accordingly.