Equal Education (EE), the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and SECTION27, have made a joint submission to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, highlighting cases of fraud and corruption in the delivery of education-related services.

Our submission is concerned with the unseen but profound impact that State capture and corruption have on the realisation of peoples’ constitutional rights. Public funds lost to corruption have been at the cost of effective service delivery, and to the detriment of learners.

Public procurement and the right to basic education

Crucial components of the right to basic education are acquired through procurement systems – these components include safe and dignified school infrastructure, school meals, and textbooks. Irregularities within procurement processes or systems, compromise learners’ access to their constitutionally enshrined right to a quality basic education.

This joint submission explores three case studies highlighting these systemic issues:

1. Allegations of corruption involving a number of senior officials in the Eastern Cape in relation to a R1 billion school nutrition programme in the province. It is unclear whether the allegations were fully investigated.

2. Unanswered questions surrounding long-standing allegations of corruption in the awarding of a contract to EduSolutions by the Limpopo Department of Education (LPDoE). The contract – for the procurement of textbooks for schools in the province – was cancelled in April 2012, after millions had been paid to EduSolutions, amid allegations of irregularities, including suspicions of fraud and corruption in the bidding process.

3. Apparent corruption and irregularities in relation to school infrastructure provisioning. Significant aspects of this work has been outsourced to Implementing Agents (IAs), who act as professional service providers to manage the building of schools on behalf of provincial education departments. Our submission to the Zondo Commission points to instances of uncompetitive and unfair procurement processes as well as alleged corruption involving IAs in the awarding of school infrastructure contracts.

It is concerning that years after allegations are reported, questions around these cases remain unresolved. We recommend that the Commission fully investigate procurement processes, the awarding of contracts and the implementation of the work as stipulated in those contracts, where there have been allegations and evidence of impropriety and corruption, which have directly hampered the fulfilment of the right to basic education.

The importance of monitoring public procurement processes cannot be overstated. Procurement systems are highly vulnerable to corruption, leading to the mismanagement of public funds and malfeasance. Simply put – public contracting is the meeting point of significant power and money. Unless individuals are held to account for corrupt practices, impunity will continue and the poorest South Africans will continue to bear the brunt of the effects of corruption.

[ENDS]

To arrange an interview regarding this statement, please contact:

Jay-Dee Cyster (EE Communications Officer): jay-dee@equaleducation.org.za or 082 924 1352

Zukiswa Pikoli (SECTION27 Communications Officer): pikoli@section27.org.za or 011 356 4100