Mpuma education officials get the axe
Secunda - Mpumalanga's Education MEC Reginah Mhaule has revealed that her department is in the process of firing 45 employees implicated in the provincial scholar transport scandal following Premier David Mabuza's threat to fire them himself.
Mabuza told journalists attending a provincial education Indaba held in Secunda on Saturday that an investigation into the multi-million rand scholar transport system was completed a long time ago and that it was now up to Mhaule to make heads roll.
"I have already asked [the MEC] to act against the employees implicated, or else I will do it myself. We have to be firm against corruption and deal with those involved," said Mabuza.
"These people are going to cause suffering to their families because they will lose their jobs. They should have thought about this before defrauding government.”
On Monday, Mhaule's spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the department's legal directorate was working around the clock to implement recommendations made by a second commission of inquiry appointed in 2009.
"We must remember that we are dealing with complex legal processes here, we can't just fire people overnight without considering the legalities, but I can definitely confirm that we are in the process of complying with all recommendations that have been made by the commission of inquiry.
"The MEC is just waiting for a go ahead from our legal directorate," said Zwane.
Zwane said the employees, which include senior department officials and teachers, are also expected to be charged internally and face disciplinary hearings for fraud.
The scholar transport system, which cost the provincial government R354m in the 2010/2011 financial year, came under the spotlight when costs escalated from R8.2m in 2001 to a staggering R176.9m in 2006 - a 2 055% increase.
In a shambles
A commissioned forensic report conducted by Ntuli Noble Inc Attorneys in 2008 found that Mpumalanga's scholar transport programme was in a shambles.
The report revealed fruitless and wasteful expenditure, mismanagement and weak internal control systems that resulted in massive over-payments to some suppliers.
For example, one service provider was paid R17.2m by April 2002 yet received a further R9.4m after May 2004 despite investigations finding that the provider was involved in irregularities.
Surprisingly no one was arrested after that investigation which prompted Mabuza to appoint a new commission of inquiry in July 2009, two months after he became premier.
The new commission headed by private attorney Hettie Groenewald, released the findings on November 19 2010.
She said at the time that even teachers and heads of department had taken part in the widespread fraud.
The commission's investigation, which covered 260 bus routes and 28 000 transactions, also revealed that many buses used to transport children were not roadworthy and that some drivers did not have driver's licences or permits to transport people.
Groenewald said 72% of children questioned had complained about the bus service.
The findings of the scholar transport commission were released by the premier on December 15 last year.
During the indaba, Mabuza raised concerns that most of the buses currently contracted to transport pupils to schools are not roadworthy.
"I usually ride in some of the buses when I do community outreach programmes, and I have been disappointed so far as most of these buses are not fit to carry our children," Mabuza said.