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R8.5m contract at centre of dispute between mining authority and company

Songezile Sigade is one of 80 unemployed youth who were trained in a six-month skills development programme./Isaac Mahlangu
Songezile Sigade is one of 80 unemployed youth who were trained in a six-month skills development programme./Isaac Mahlangu

The quality of a six-month skills training programme given to 80 unemployed youth at a cost of R11m has been brought into question.

The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), a sector education and training authority (Seta), funded the learnership programme that is now the subject of a dispute over payment between it and a service provider.

VSL General Trading which provided the skills training at a cost of more than R100,000 per student is embroiled in a bitter feud with MQA over nonpayment of an outstanding R2.8m.

The company provided training to 80 unemployed youth from Khuma township near Klerksdorp in the North West.

But a report by the authority's monitoring and evaluation unit, which Sowetan has seen, has painted a worrying picture on the quality of the skills training
received by learners.

The report by the unit recommended that a payment of R2.8m not be made as participants in the course would not be getting credit-bearing certificates and that objectives had not been met.

VSL had already been paid almost R8.5m in three tranches of between R2.2m, R2.8m and R3.4m.

According to a service-level agreement entered into with VSL, the skills programmes to be undertaken included Solar PV feasibility assessment for both residential and industrial including installation, maintenance and financial programmes among others.

VSL director Vincent Leponesa told Sowetan its training programme was not aimed at giving "full qualification".

He confirmed that there was a payment dispute with MQA which still owed his company money.

"The only thing that maybe they [students] would say is that it's not a full qualification because a full qualification will go for 12 months and with practicals so what we have trained them is on different unit standards not full qualifications," Leponesa said.

When asked about the attendance certificates given to the participants, Leponesa said his company had "ups and downs" with a service provider it had outsourced to train on solar installations that it found out was not accredited.

"We had ups and downs with the service provider, then we said because we needed to give them something accredited, then we would get the one [accredited training] for plumbing," he said.

"From [the service provider appointed to render training on solar systems] I can agree [that they got attendance certificates] that's why we said we need to put more effort to take them [students] to the construction Seta.

"There's an issue that they [MQA] don't want to pay the remaining amount because of the back and forth, but we didn't want to entertain it to the lawyers"

MQA board chairperson David Msiza told Sowetan the VSL contract was among three contracts on learnerships and internships it would soon launch investigations on. "The MQA board will do so expeditiously and will take immediate remedial steps should it identify any irregularities regarding these contracts."

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