SIU probe into E Cape education limited to one tender

After the presidency announced that it had asked the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to launch a probe into the troubled Eastern Cape education department, the Mail & Guardian discovered that it would only be probing one incident: the awarding of a tender to the Siegesmund Trust.

Against a myriad allegations of corruption and maladministration that has earned the department the reputation of the worst province in the country, the recent news has shocked civil society. 

Daniel Linde, deputy director of public interest law firm Equal Education Law Centre told the M&G on Sunday: “When we looked for the terms of reference for the SIU’s investigation, we were very concerned to find that the only proclamation … relates only to procurement from one particular entity.” 

“There are wide ranging allegations about maladministration at state and school level in [the department] including very serious incidences of money being stolen that was meant for learner nutrition, and teaching and principal posts being bought.”

He said it was “dubious” that the presidency announced a broad investigation into potential maladministration in the province, “but it turns out that this isn’t happening”. 


The long-standing rot in the department has been the focus of countless court actions and media exposes. In 2011, it reached a destructive enough level to warrant a section 100 intervention in which the basic education department (DBE) took over the province’s administration. The public protector investigated the failure to provide workbooks to the province on time in 2012 and 2013 because of the lack of “functional co-ordination structures” in the province; and the Auditor-General’s 2014/2015 report said the department was being investigated by the police and the Hawks over irregularities in contract management for furniture and catering at school hostels.

On June 24, President Jacob Zuma signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate, among others, “serious maladministration … improper or unlawful conduct by employees … and unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money” by the department. The exact terms of reference were, at that stage, yet to be confirmed.

Investigation limited
On Friday, SIU spokesperson Ayanda Maki confirmed to the M&G that its investigation would be “limited to the Siegesmund matter at this stage”. She referred to a July 10 proclamation, signed by Zuma, which said the SIU would investigate “the procurement of goods and services from Siegesmund Trust by or on behalf of the Department and payments made in respect thereof in a manner that was not fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost –effective…” 

A January 19 article in The Herald said a tender was awarded to the Siegesmund Trust and Macmillan SA for learner teacher support material, without following the correct processes. Education researcher for the Public Service Accountability Monitor, Zukiswa Kota, said after Zuma’s initial announcement, “it was not unreasonable to assume that the focus would be on a range of issues that had been identified by national and provincial intervention teams – and not merely a single procurement case”.

But the decision to limit the investigation to the Siegesmund Trust was “questionable”. “Given the gravity of the many challenges in governance and financial management faced by the department – this is questionable,” she said. “If an objective of the investigation is to uncover fundamental problems in the department with a view to channelling corrective action – an investigation with such a restricted lens will have dubious efficacy.”

Linde said the state had mislead South Africans.

“Thousands of South Africans are demanding transparency and responsiveness to corruption [but] in this case it appears that the state has preached a responsive approach, but has in fact pulled the wool over our eyes.”

Neither the presidency nor the department  of basic education responded to questions by the Mail & Guardian at the time of publishing.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

‘I will have to repeat grade 8’

Schools have been closed again. After months of doing schoolwork at home, not all parents think their children are ready to move to the next grade

‘The corrupt must go to jail’

As Gauteng braces itself for its Covid-19 peak, the provincial government says it is knuckling down to deal with ‘shameful’ corruption allegations

Another teachers union calls for schools to be closed

Naptosa says it is irresponsible to keep schools open and that this is affecting the mental and physical health of teachers and learners

Sadtu calls for the closure of schools

Citing cases such as a school to which only four learners returned, to be met by 20 teachers, the union said Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on learning

New August 31 deadline for the last learners to return to school

In an amendment published in the Government Gazette on Tuesday, the basic education minister has made further changes to the school return dates for different grades

Only three grades to return to school on Monday

Only grades six, 11 and R will return to school as expected, with the rest to be phased in later in the month
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday