/ 5 October 2012

Task team releases report on Limpopo textbooks debacle

Basic Education Director General Bobby Soobrayan
Basic Education Director General Bobby Soobrayan

Basic education director general Bobby Soobrayan should be investigated following his role in the Limpopo textbooks crisis, the much-awaited presidential task team report into the debacle has recommended.

" … the task team recommended that the Public Service Commission should be directed to investigate the role of the director general of the basic education department in contributing to the delay …" the task team said.

Specific reference was made to "his indecisiveness to respond to and act on the letter from the [textbook] publishers in December 2011 in which he was reminded that the Limpopo education department had not ordered learner teacher support material for the academic year 2012 …"

In December last year government invoked section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution and took over the running of various Limpopo departments including education for maladministration among other reasons.

The task team said Soobrayan, among other provincial treasury and education heads, should be investigated because he "also did not provide adequate administrative support to the administrators to ensure the implementation of section 100 (1)(b)… [and] the alleged interference and reluctance to delegate the procurement function to the first two administrators, therefore further delaying the process to order learner teacher support material for the 2012 academic year".

The presidency announced on July 4 that it would set up a task team to investigate the causes of non-delivery of textbooks for, at that time, seven months of the school year, and make recommendations to ensure the chaos was not repeated.

Lengthy legal action against the basic education department by rights organisation Section 27 revealed on Tuesday that about 70 000 textbooks remain undelivered.

The report, which was made public on Friday afternoon, placed much of the blame at the feet of the Limpopo education department that "did not place the [textbooks and stationery] orders timeously and did not manage the contract with the service provider, [contracted to procure and distribute textbooks], EduSolutions efficiently.

"The department negligently handed over the responsibility to manage and maintain the database for the procurement of materials to the service provider," the task team said.

It criticised the department for its lack of "an ethos that promotes a system of accountability".

The presidency's task team comprised of the deputy ministers of finance, Nhlanhla Nene; basic education, Enver Surty; performance, monitoring and evaluation, Obed Bapela; cooperative governance and traditional affairs Yunus Carrim; and public service and administration, Ayanda Dlodlo.

Attempts to get comment from spokesperson for the basic education department Panyaza Lesufi were unsuccessful.

The provincial treasury was not spared either with the task team slating its "weakness … in responding to financial management issues such as cash-flow requirements, supply chain management and financial oversight".

The basic education department was also in the line of fire after it "failed to prioritise the ordering of books and concentrated on matters that were not helpful to the process, despite advice from national treasury and appointed administrators.

"[It] left things too late while addressing issues that would not facilitate the speedy placing of orders and misrepresented facts on a non-existent court order barring them from ordering books from alternative suppliers," the report said.

Section 27 went to court in May in a bid to force the basic education department to deliver textbooks to pupils.

The department missed two court-ordered deadlines resulting in the organisation returning to court this week successfully requesting it to issue a third deadline for delivery, which has been set as 12 October.

Section 27 "welcomed the report and its recommendations in relation to holding the administrative heads in both the national and provincial education departments accountable for the failure to procure textbooks for schools across Limpopo".

Attorney at the organisation Nikki Stein said, however, that the task team "could have looked deeper into issues of fraud and corruption and particularly the department's contract with EduSolutions".