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FET colleges get an F for audits

Salary overpayments not recovered, no evidence that new positions and tenders were advertised and no supporting documentation for student bursary payments.

These are just some of the administrative problems at public further education and training colleges that Gwebs Qonde, director ­general of the department of higher education and training, wants sorted out. He has written to the principals of 50 colleges instructing them to do so within the next year.

Last week Qonde showed the Mail & Guardian a circular he had issued to the principals a month ago “with a view of addressing and overcoming these challenges”.

The department wants to improve the “control environment in the colleges, especially financial control environment … so that we’re able to account quite appropriately for monies of the public that go to these institutions”, Qonde said.

Allocation to the colleges increased from R3.8-billion in 2010 to R5.4-billion for 2014. The government wants to increase enrolment at the institutions to 1.25-million by 2030. In 2013 there were 670?455 students – up from 358?393 in 2010.

But last year only 39% of the ­colleges’ candidates obtained the NC (V) level-four certificate, which is equivalent to matric.

Internal controls
Spurred on by the adverse findings of auditor general Kimi Makwetu on 14 audited colleges, Qonde’s circular urges the principals to “ensure that the necessary internal controls are established”.

Makwetu released the audit three weeks ago.

“Based on the outcome of the audit opinions, it is evident that the status of [the] colleges … regressed from the previous 2012 audits,” Qonde told the principals.

“It is therefore important to ­implement appropriate corrective measures to strengthen internal controls to an acceptable level which can withstand the auditor general’s audits.”

Qonde’s circular told the college heads that they should ensure the “findings are appropriately addressed and do not reoccur in the [2014-15] financial year”.

Makwetu’s report blamed wholesale “internal control deficiencies” for the “regression of audit outcomes” at the colleges.

No clean audits
None of the 14 audited colleges achieved clean audits. Yet in 2012, five obtained optimal results from the auditor general.

The auditor general also lifted the lid on tardiness that saw colleges missing deadline for submission of documents. Only five institutions met it. “Significant delays were ­experienced in finalising all the audits that were not completed by 30 June 2014.

“The reasons for the delays range from lack of proper accounting records to disagreements with management, management not being available to discuss final reports, management insisting on making further corrections to submitted annual financial statements and council not yet having approved the annual financial statements.”

Mohale Ramosunya, president of the South African Further Education and Training Student Association, said their complaints about staff capacity at colleges had become perennial.

“If you check many colleges, you’ll find that there’s only one bursary officer. The issue of capacity must be looked into,” Ramosunya said.

Dan Nkosi, principal of the Soweto-based South West Gauteng College, said he welcomed the circular as a “timely tool to help effect improvements in the college’s control and governance environment”.

“[We] immediately incorporated the recommendations into the already existing improvement plan of the college.”

Nkosi said that the seriousness of the issues addressed by the circular justified the year-long deadline Qonde had set. “We will do our best to work towards [it].”

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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