Textbook firm in dodgy toys deal

2012-06-29 00:00

EDUSOLUTIONS, the company under scrutiny in the Limpopo textbook debacle, didn’t only score a massive and dodgy textbook deal, but was also allegedly irregularly awarded a contract to supply toys to schools in the province.

Court papers and a key whistleblower claim EduSolutions, whose Limpopo textbook tender deal would have been worth up to R700 million this year and the next if it had not been cancelled, was also irregularly awarded a R27 million Grade R educational toys contract. It was also accused of inflating prices.

But EduSolutions denies any wrongdoing and claims that the toys contract formed part of its learner teacher support material deal.

Limpopo Education Department administrator Mzwandile Matthews said in an affidavit before the North Gauteng High Court that the educational toys contract resulted in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Whistleblower Solly Shitangano, a former acting chief financial officer in the Limpopo Education Department, has also raised concerns about the toy deal with the authorities, including the Public Protector, documents obtained by Media24 Investigations show.

Last week EduSolutions attempted to get an urgent order from the court reinstating its procurement deal after it was cancelled in late April amid allegations of serious irregularities. The court ordered the case go to trial and did not order that the contract be reinstated.

The court papers show how a bid invitation for procurement, packaging and delivery of toys was irrugularly cancelled by the then head of Limpopo Education Department, Benny Boshielo, in 2010 shortly after it was advertised in July that year.

Matthews said in his affidavit that the department’s officials were instructed to procure the toys through EduSolutions, which appeared to be irregular and to contravene the Public Finance Management Act.

As in the deal for books and other classroom materials, EduSolutions had been paid an additional management fee and also took 70% of the trade discount the state should have received. Matthews said this amounted to “fruitless and wasteful expenditure.”

Matthews said scrutiny of the invoices showed in one case that prices had been inflated by between 40% and 45%.

But EduSolutions’ director, Moosa Ntimba, denied that his company had inflated prices and that the material ordered by the department was legitimately part of the contract. There was no reason for EduSolutions not to have taken on the additional business, which he said formed part of the early childhood development programme that was part of their contract.

EduSolutions’ lawyer, Ian Small-Smith, insisted the toys procurement was covered by the existing contract and the company planned to challenge the government in court over the cancelling of its contract.

EduSolutions is a subsidiary of African Access Holdings and had a admirable record of aiding communities in KwaZulu-Natal, ranging from dontating laptops to building homes, he added.

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