Examination quality-assurance body Umalusi denied on Tuesday that it has cleared education department officials of involvement in alleged irregularities in last year’s Mpumalanga matric exams.
The council rejected a finding, attributed to it by the Mpumalanga education department, that no officials had been involved.
Department spokesperson Thomas Msiza claimed that Umalusi has cleared all officials.
”A report provided to us by Umalusi said they found no wrongdoing on the part of our officials. No officials are implicated,” he said. ”The department abides by that finding.”
Umalusi CEO Peliwe Lolwana said the report had merely stated that on the information in its possession, the council had found no evidence of any officials involved.
This did not exclude the possibility that evidence might yet arise, she said.
Umalusi’s investigations had focused solely on determining which schools’ results could be released. It focused on the scripts and ”we didn’t question anybody”, Lolwana said.
Msiza said he does not want to debate the matter, and stands by the department’s interpretation of Umalusi’s report.
The national Department of Education said it has not been informed of officials being cleared.
As far as the national department was concerned, investigations into the alleged irregularities are continuing, said spokesperson Tommy Makhode.
Last week, Umalusi directed that the matric marks of more than 2Ã‚Â 300 pupils who wrote their exams at 14 schools be withheld pending further investigation.
Evidence of ”irregular practices” was found at 10 of the 14 schools, while allegations at another four could not be evaluated in time because the scripts were not immediately available.
The provincial education department was tasked by Umalusi with probing allegations at the 10 schools, and requested the scripts of the other four.
Matric candidates at two of the four schools — Nelspruit Private College and Evander High School — will receive their results from 2pm on Tuesday, after being cleared by Umalusi, the provincial department said.
The bulk of Mpumalanga’s matric results were released on Saturday after being withheld for more than two weeks due to a police investigation prompted by an exam marker’s allegations of suspected cheating.
The other eight provinces’ marks were unveiled on December 29.
Umalusi said last week it had found irregularities in exams in 12 subjects. Investigators found evidence of common answers at some examination centres and of similar changes made to answers by groups of students.
Msiza said a 10-member investigation team, made up of provincial department officials, has been set up to probe the outstanding allegations.
Makhode said the national department is providing provincial authorities with ”general support” in the investigation.
Provincial police spokesperson Superintendent Izak van Zyl said the police probe is continuing. He will not comment on the possibility of officials being cleared.
The police are investigating suspected irregularities at 38 Mpumalanga schools, involving at least 2Ã‚Â 000 examination papers.
Allegations include that teachers gave pupils answer sheets and wrote answers on chalkboards during the examinations.
Earlier this month, Van Zyl said it is ”quite possible” that senior education department staff might be arrested. Pupils involved in the alleged fraud could also face criminal charges.
In 1998, the Mpumalanga matric examinations also came under the spotlight when it transpired that the province’s pass rate had been artificially escalated by 20%. — Sapa