Probe ‘missing’ R3bn for textbooks

2012-06-28 15:12

Rights organisation Section27 says the national department of basic education spends R4.7 billion on books yet publishers’ revenue is less than R2 billion, a discrepancy it blames on “thieves”.

Section27 executive director Mark Heywood is demanding that the department and the Publishers’ Association provide evidence that confirms or refutes the claim, which it says it has been “authoritatively told”.

“If tens of millions of rands are lost to corruption we must find the thieves, prosecute and imprison them,” Heywood said.

He said the department must also investigate EduSolutions, which had its R320 million contract to deliver textbooks terminated recently.

However, the basic education department has refused to take blame for the failure to deliver textbooks on time.

“It’s not the department’s incompetence. Provincial education departments run education, the basic education department only monitors,” director-general Bobby Soobrayan said.

He said Cabinet’s intervention in Limpopo only started in December.

“The basic education department doesn’t have money to buy textbooks, provinces do,” said Soobrayan.

But Section27 insists that national government is required to assume responsibility for ensuring the minimum standard of service delivery and to uphold the right to basic education.

“This is a duty that the national department bears even in the absence of an intervention,” Heywood said.

Soobrayan said principals who refused to receive textbooks delivered by the department’s contractors in Limpopo were contravening their conditions of service.

“It’s the job of principals to receive textbooks,” he said.

Soobrayan promised that the department would avoid late delivery of textbooks next year.

“We have started the process of procuring textbooks for 2013 and released the catalogue,” he said.

Heywood warned that if books are not at schools on the first day next year the department will be breaking the law.

The department still has to report to North Gauteng High Court Judge Jody Kollapen who, on May 17, gave it until yesterday to deliver textbooks.

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