Firm ‘only destroyed damaged workbooks’

2013-07-26 00:00

UTi distributions only shredded 100 school workbooks from the 2012 school year, which local management had assessed to be irreparably damaged, the company said yesterday.

In a statement, it said no schools had been adversely affected by the incident.

“Once UTi had identified the schools for which the damaged books were intended, the workbooks were replaced and UTi delivered them directly to the schools concerned,” the company said.

This comes after the company’s offices in Empangeni were raided by the both police and the Department of Education on Wednesday.

Spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department received a tip-off that UTi ­Distribution was destroying workbooks meant for delivery and so they conducted an investigation.

The department confirmed the books were workbooks, not textbooks.

The Witness reported yesterday that education officials found a room with a shredder and a number of black plastic bags full of shredded workbooks at the warehouse. More were soaking in a bucket of water. Behind the building was evidence that books had been burned.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu insinuated that the shredding and soaking of books in water was for recycling purposes.

The company said the allegations of “criminality” or “corruption” were unfounded.

It said it had delivered 5 578 550 workbooks in KwaZulu-Natal in 2012, and 5 122 660 for the 2013 school year.

The contracted service levels for these distributions were exceeded, as confirmed by external auditors appointed by the Department of Basic Education.

The company said it had apologised to the relevant authorities about the incident and was investigating it. It would provide an official report as soon as possible and, once their internal investigation was complete, disciplinary steps will be taken if necessary, a statement from the company read.

The DA said delivery of textbooks is a national priority and must be treated as such.

“It is not the same as delivering a product such as washing powder to a supermarket … failure to deliver the right books to schools, at the right time, has a serious knock-on effect on the lives of thousands of learners,” said DA MP Tom Stokes.

The DA said it was has its possession copies of letters sent by the Zululand Remedial Centre to the Department of Education from as far back as February, requesting the delivery of workbooks.

Education spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said the matter was now being investigated by the police. He said there had been no complaints from schools that he was aware of but officials at the department were investigating.

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