The furore over the amount of money spent on a few pit latrines at a school in the Eastern Cape is becoming more intense, and a number of investigations are under way following a City Press exposé last week.
Provincial Finance MEC Oscar Mabuyane confirmed that his department was investigating the procurement process that led to the construction of nine pit latrines and two urinals – allegedly for R4.8 million – at Myolwa Senior Primary School in KwaNyathi village, Lusikisiki.
“The team from the provincial treasury was on site on Tuesday to verify these facts. It’s clear from the preliminary investigation that the money was spent, but the work at the site is not yet done. The contractor is back on site to conclude what he was supposed to be doing,” he said.
Mabuyane said 23 pit latrines were supposed to have been built, and the prefab classrooms were supposed to have been renovated.
The treasury officials will also investigate why new classrooms were not built, and why the toilets were prioritised, meaning pupils were still being taught under trees and others – sometimes more than 100 – were crammed into a single classroom. Also under investigation are the cost of the project and how service providers were hired.
“If the amount was paid upfront, why was the work not concluded on time or why was the money paid before the work was done?” Mabuyane asked.
“It pains me because the minister of finance keeps raising the issue that it is only in the Eastern Cape where you find funny things like this. We are suffering reputational damage.”
Nqaba Bhanga, the DA’s premier candidate for the Eastern Cape, said the party visited the school and filed a complaint against the provincial education department with the Human Rights Commission for failing to provide adequate toilet facilities and sanitation, as well as functional classrooms and other resources.
“The department made R4.8 million available to construct buildings containing 23 pit toilets. Millions have already been spent on nine pit toilets that are too big and definitely unsafe for five- and six-year-olds at the school. The building that houses the nine new pit toilets is also a prime example of shoddy workmanship. An additional 14 pit toilets are now being dug,” Bhanga said.
The Human Rights Commission has undertaken to investigate the matter.
Provincial education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said the department was cooperating fully with the investigation, and said the contractor was paid R4.5 million to renovate the prefabs and build 23 toilets.
“The department has written to the contractor to insist that he meets his obligations,” he said.
Lunga Nxumalo, co-owner of Commu Investment, the company contracted by the Eastern Cape education department to undertake the work, insists his company only received R3.3 million to build the toilets and to renovate leaky prefab classrooms.