Mathews also presented to Parliament's portfolio committee on basic education on Thursday a recovery plan for the department. The committee was on an oversight visit to the province to gather information on delays in the delivery of school textbooks.
The proposed control measures could save the department at least R2-billion, said Mathews.
"The department will negotiate with publishers on prices for books for the curriculum assessment policy to be introduced next year. The process of procuring books for next year is also under way."
He said the original plan had indicated that nearly R8-billion was needed to procure books for schools and that money was awaited from national government.
Mathews said a catch-up plan was imperative.
"We cannot compromise on burning issues such as books, scholar transport and infrastructure rehabilitation. If we mess up with these, we would have messed up with the system all over again," said Mathews.
When asked about what the catch-up plan for the department entailed, Mathews said it was still being formulated.
DA education spokesperson Annette Lovemore, who was also at the meeting, said she doubted if the catch-up plan would work.
"Right now it is too late without having a plan in place. We are not satisfied with the explanations provided on the supposed catch-up plan, because there is no plan yet."
Committee chairperson Helen Malgas said her team also met with unions, the South African Principals Association, officials and with Professor Mary Metcalfe, appointed by the department of basic education to probe the books saga.
The provincial departments of education, health, roads and transport and the treasury were placed under administration last year. – Sapa