I AM a member of the standing committee on appropriations of the National Assembly and DA spokesperson for the committee. The committee recently conducted an oversight visit to four schools in the Eastern Cape: Bhekuzulu Senior Secondary, Gcinisizwe Primary, Langeni Senior Primary and Chief Henry Boklein Senior Secondary in Libode in the O R Tambo District.
The purpose of the visit was to track the progress in the delivery of new schools through the accelerated schools infrastructure delivery initiative (Asidi) programme.
In a quest to address the schools infrastructure backlogs in South Africa, the Department of Basic Education established Asidi in 2011, which aimed at expediting the eradication of schools infrastructure backlogs in various provinces.
There were about 510 initially and subsequently increased to 527 inappropriate structures all over the country with the Eastern Cape having the largest number (442). Targets were set and by the end of April the number of schools completed should have been 339, but only 90 have been completed, of which 78 are in the Eastern Cape.
The DA believes this progress is unacceptable as the department is failing the children for whom these schools were planned to be built. The result of this unacceptable poor performance and delivery by the department is that in some cases money that should have been used for the building of schools had to be returned to National Treasury as the department was unable to spend the money allocated to it.
Excuses were given to the committee as to why the schools were not being completed on the target dates and a departmental representative blamed the contractor. Of the four schools visited one was completed about a year ago but already needs maintenance – but no provision is made in the budget.
The school needs to be painted, water tanks are leaking and the cows are not keeping up with the rapid growth of the grass.
Two schools were allocated to the same contractor who, although he was informed of our visit, did not see fit to be present to explain his poor performance. The two schools allocated to him (costing R74.6-million and R81.9-million) are far from complete.
Both have a projected completion date of April 21, but the progress recorded for the two schools is 22.6% and 22.1% respectively. The contractor has already received “four notices of default” and is being “monitored closely”, but there is still no improvement.
The fourth school was projected to be completed on April 10. That is not going to happen but the progress was much more encouraging than at the other two incomplete schools.
The contractor was on site to show us around and made promises to complete the school by the end of February. The total amount spent to date on the four schools visited was R64-million and if I saw work worth R30-million, then that’s a lot.
A document submitted to the committee on progress at other schools being constructed, that we did not visit, showed some dismal progress. One school was 0% and one 9% complete, and many less than 30% and so the story goes on.
Large amounts of taxpayers’ money is being wasted as some contractors’ contracts have been terminated and more will have to be terminated. The work is shoddy and, in some cases, while we were on site, the clerk of works had instructed the structure to be broken down and rebuilt.
The community is also being disadvantaged. The pupils are being taught in temporary structures with limited resources.
Our democracy and the National Development Plan of the government have failed the disadvantaged and poor once again. I remind our government that section 29 (1)(a) of the constitution states: “Everyone has the right to a basic education”.
-Dr Malcolm Figg, DA MP and member of standing committee on finance