Although it has failed to build proper toilets or classrooms at a primary school in the Eastern Cape, the provincial education department managed to pay a company R250 000 for an old shipping container.
Noxolo Lugayeni, the chairperson of the school governing body at Upper Mvenyane Senior Primary School in Cedarville, near Kokstad, said a representative from the company Outconnect arrived in the middle of the night to deliver a rusty shipping container to be used as a mobile kitchen, and spray-painted it.
“I was there when they painted the container at around 11pm. The principal, who only saw it the next day, could not believe it when we told her that these people spray-painted it the previous night. It had a lot of rust, especially outside. You could see it was not a new container. One then wonders why it is so expensive,” Lugayeni said.
She said that, when the education department’s school nutrition programme called the principal to tell her the school would get a kitchen, they were “delighted”.
“We thought they would build us a kitchen and we even earmarked a space where the kitchen was to be constructed. Then R250 000 was deposited into the school’s account for the purposes of this kitchen and, before we knew it, an instruction was given to the principal to sign a cheque for R250 000 and pay a company, which would deliver a mobile kitchen. The principal did as she was told. We think the school may have been used to facilitate corruption. It looks like a smart way of eating money to me,” she added.
Lugayeni said it was strange that the department, through its nutrition programme, managed to get a kitchen so fast when they had been begging for decades for toilets and classrooms.
The school was built by local residents. The department’s only contribution has been the desks, which were delivered this year.
The community also built the pit latrines, but they are unfortunately too big for the smaller children to use, which makes staff worry that a child will fall into one of them and drown.
City Press saw a copy of the cheque, dated March 20 2018, that was paid to Outconnect, as well as the invoice from the company for the “supply and delivery of a mobile kitchen”.
The principal, Priscilla Dlangamandla, said the container was delivered in March last year and Outconnect was paid less than three weeks later.
“We basically don’t have a school here because these structures are falling apart. Government is nowhere to be seen, but is able to spend so much money on things that are less important,” she said.
“The only thing the department was giving us was a kitchen. They sent us R250 000 and told us it was for a mobile kitchen. Then they brought that thing. Do you think that thing can cost R250 000?” she asked.
“We were then instructed to transfer the whole amount to the company that had delivered the container. I mean, do you think this container can be worth R250 000?”
She said the school could have spent the money better.
“This container was painted here at the school. It was old when it arrived and had rust all over it. It was clear that it had been used before. The container was empty. Inside, it only had a sink, a storeroom and shelves. We had to buy everything else ourselves as the school,” she said.
Sipho Mgoma, sales and managing director of Outconnect, confirmed his company supplied a mobile kitchen to Mvenyane and another school in Maluti called Cramore Senior Primary School. He also confirmed that each of the containers cost R250 000.
He said they had received a request from “someone” at the provincial education department’s headquarters for a quote and, after several months, they received a call to supply the containers to two schools.
Mgoma, whose company was established in 2013, said they were specialists in converting shipping containers and would buy second-hand ones that they then converted into kitchens. When asked how much they bought the containers for, Mgoma said a 12m one like Mvenyane’s would cost R30 000 second-hand.
He said they installed a sink, gas cages, a pantry, aluminium sheets and opening doors, and painted the outside.
“Yes, it is true that we painted the container in Mvenyane on site, but it was only touch-ups. We had already painted it before delivery and only had to paint the back when it arrived at the school,” he said.
Despite repeated attempts and promises by department spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima to respond, he failed to do so.
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