State capture commission should look into school tenders - activists

A group of civil society organisations called for an investigation into the impact of corruption on people's constitutional right to education. Stock image.
A group of civil society organisations called for an investigation into the impact of corruption on people's constitutional right to education. Stock image.
Image: PaylessImages

State capture's "profound impact" on school pupils needs to be probed.

This is according to civil society organisations Equal Education (EE), the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and Section27, which have made a joint submission to the judicial commission on state capture on alleged fraud and corruption in the delivery of services related to education.

The groups on Wednesday expressed concern at the impact corruption had on the violation of people's constitutional right to education.

"Our submission is concerned with the unseen but profound impact that state capture and corruption have on the realisation of peoples' constitutional rights. Public funds lost to corruption have been at the cost of effective service delivery, and to the detriment of learners," the group said in a statement.

The submission to the commission, according to their statement, highlights systematic issues which have detrimental effects on the progress of the pupils.

One of the case studies of alleged corruption cited by the group includes a R1bn school nutrition programme in the Eastern Cape where several senior officials are alleged to be implicated, but it was unclear if the matter had been fully investigated.

Another concern raised was the submission of unanswered questions on long-standing allegations of corruption in the awarding of a textbooks contract to EduSolutions by the Limpopo education department.

"The contract – for the procurement of textbooks for schools in the province – was cancelled in April 2012, after millions had been paid to EduSolutions, amid allegations of irregularities, including suspicions of fraud and corruption in the bidding process," the civil society organisations said.

The group said it had been worrying that years after allegations had been reported, the cases remain unresolved - hence the decision to ask the commission to look into the matter.

"We recommend that the commission fully investigate procurement processes, the awarding of contracts and the implementation of the work as stipulated in those contracts, where there have been allegations and evidence of impropriety and corruption, which have directly hampered the fulfillment of the right to basic education," the statement read.

The group said unless people accused of wrongdoing had been held to account, impunity would continue and the poor would have to bear the brunt of the effects of corruption.

"Importance of monitoring public procurement processes cannot be overstated. Procurement systems are highly vulnerable to corruption, leading to the mismanagement of public funds and malfeasance," added the group.

"Simply put – public contracting is the meeting point of significant power and money. Unless individuals are held to account for corrupt practices, impunity will continue." 

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