Officials appointed to set and moderate exam question papers at technical colleges are fuming over the higher education department’s failure to pay them for years.
This is yet another allegation of mismanagement at the country’s 50 beleaguered public technical and vocational education and training colleges. In recent weeks students forced the closure of several of the colleges in protest over the department’s delay in issuing graduation certificates, among other things.
A seasoned examiner, who now lives in Italy, claims he is owed about R384 000 from as far back as 2011 and others say they are owed between R88 000 and R90 000. Many have become so disillusioned that they have refused to apply for reappointment as examiners and moderators.
By the time of going to print, the department had not responded to questions, including how widespread the problem is.
But an examiner, owed R88 000, says the delays have affected officials from all provinces and gave the Mail & Guardian a list of 29 names of examiners and moderators who are also battling to get paid.
But the department appears to have taken a high-handed stance, threatening not to reappoint examiners and markers who complained of not being paid for previous work done. According to a letter to a moderator from DM Ramoroka, the department’s director for item development and marking, the payment for services rendered “must not be used for bargaining in lieu of delayed payments for past claims. Should such bargaining happen, the DHET [department of higher education and training] reserves the right to withdraw this appointment with immediate effect.”
The examiner owed R88 000 refused to apply for reappointment and is still waiting to be paid, despite receiving assurances from a senior official in the department since June 2015. The official informed him in an email: “Our finance section is experiencing a challenge with the volume of claims submitted and is simultaneously having to deal with claims from the additional 38 000 officials inherited from provinces in April 2015.”
The former examiner and moderator said: “It is clear that the officials, who did the appointments, knew about the financial problems and, despite this knowledge, they continued to appoint examiners, moderators and markers, knowing that these people cannot be paid within a reasonable time.”
He added their actions were “irrational and amount to unfair conduct”.
He said 15 out of 31 claims he made between 2013 and 2015 were still outstanding.
“I have heard several excuses. I emailed and phoned them many times. They just made promises that my claims were processed and will be paid soon but this did not happen.”
The academic living in Italy said he received about R10 000 in the past two years despite being owed about R384 000.
He produced copies of 48 claims he had submitted to the department.
“Before I left South Africa, I submitted all my claims again for about the hundredth time. Last Thursday, I received an email saying they misplaced them and I should resubmit them.”
He said he had even gone to a lawyer to find out how much it would cost him to take legal action against the department.
Another disillusioned examiner from a college in Gauteng, who is owed about R90 000, said: “I have given up hope; I know they will never pay us. I am just doing it [setting papers] for the good of the students so that they can at least have proper question papers. We have lost faith in DHET.”
Academics involved in setting the engineering studies papers for the 2017-2018 exam cycle had to submit two papers between November 4 2016 and January 18 this year. Another three papers had to be submitted between January 20 and February 5. At least 260 papers have to be set for engineering and business studies.
In an email to examiners setting engineering studies papers, dated January 18, the department’s Crayon Baloyi said, after their papers had been approved, examiners should ensure that claim forms were submitted to the department by March 12.
“If you have submitted them, thank you, we will meet at the bank!” he added, which infuriated the examiners and moderators spoken to.