The Democratic Alliance says the basic education department is not using standard procedures for the purchasing of 2013 textbooks for Limpopo.
"The DA is in possession of a record of the meeting held between the [department], the Limpopo education department and textbook publishers in Polokwane concerning the 2013 Limpopo textbook procurement process," education spokesperson Anette Lovemore said in a statement.
"It was clear from the record that the procurement process is being centralised nationally and is not following any specified guideline," she said.
The department said the DA's concerns were baseless.
"What the DA is saying is grossly misleading, baseless and devoid of any truth," said department spokesperson Panyaza Lesufi.
"The process of procurement and delivery of textbooks in Limpopo province is the same process followed by other provinces.
"So far we have not received a single complaint from publishers or booksellers. We reject the accusations that the process is not transparent," he said.
Vulnerable to corruption
Lovemore said that, of particular concern, was the ad hoc basis on which publishers were selected, even though they offering a reduced textbook catalogue.
A non-standardised selection process was vulnerable to corruption, she said.
The national department took over the running of Limpopo's education department in December following maladministration.
Lovemore's other concerns were a lack of transparency on prices, selection guidelines of publishers and titles for the textbook catalogue, pricing overriding the quality of content as a determining factor and conflicts of interest between publishers and officials.
"[Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga] needs to provide assurances that the procurement processes are transparent and in the best interests of learners," she said.
Lesufi said it was clear the DA had not read the department's policies.
Publishers had been called to a meeting in Limpopo to be taken through how the process would unfold, he said.
"Over and above prices that appear on the national catalogue, provinces are perfectly within their purview to negotiate further reduction based on economies of scale," he said.
The discount has nothing to do with the catalogue development process, but has historically been used for delivery and distribution.
"This was made abundantly clear during the catalogue process that cost for delivery and distribution is a matter between provincial education departments and publishers, and the [department] is not involved," said Lesufi.
He said the reason some publishers had cried foul was because they wanted to make textbooks unaffordable. – Sapa