Schools fight government’s stationery policy

Some public schools in KwaZulu-Natal have been stripped of their powers to procure service providers of their choice to supply their schools with stationery.

Instead, the Department of Education has appointed its own service providers to deliver stationery to schools, sidelining companies already appointed months ago by the school governing bodies (SGB).

This move has been described as a source of corruption and as lacking in transparency and accountability.

Although these Section 21 schools had followed the procurement procedures through advertising tenders and had already conducted the appointment of service providers, they were still waiting for allocations for stationery since June.

Unexpected stationery deliveries were made yesterday to the schools, allegedly by unknown service providers.

The department, however, denied stripping schools of procurement powers, saying that schools were only asked to collect quotations.

Kwazi Mthethwa, the department spokesperson, said the appointing of service providers was not the responsibility of the department.

“The department had migrated textbook requirements to its bulk purchasing programme to ensure value for money. The department has saved R30million which will be transferred to schools to afford school governing bodies the resources to plough more investment into pupils’ needs.”

Allen Thompson, the deputy president of the National Teachers’ Union, at a media briefing yesterday accused the department of orchestrating a malicious campaign against Section 21 schools.

“The department has been accusing them of mismanaging funds and lacking the capacity to award tenders. While these schools are still confused by these baseless allocations, the department decided to adopt a centralised procurement model managed by itself,” he said.

Thompson said the system would add to other programmes such as the national school nutrition scheme, which in the past were a responsibility of the SGBs, but whose procurement processes were taken over by the department.

Feeding

Recently, service providers stopped feeding pupils after the department failed to pay them on time.

Thompson said they did not support the move and saw it as the main source of corruption.

“The department is forcing these schools into the trap of Section 20 schools, which are forced to receive books and stationery from the department,” he said.

Simon Dlamini, a principal from one of the affected schools in the uMlazi District, told the Daily News yesterday that he went to the department offices in Durban two weeks ago.

He was told that his stationery order would be made through a central procurement system although his school was a Section 21 with function C, and by law supposed to receive money to procure its own supply.

He said he was told that his school would not receive the funds, but the department would appoint its own service providers. Dlamini said this was never communicated to him until he enquired.

Yesterday, a truck took books and stationery to his school to deliver an order and Dlamini refused to sign for it. “It was not the company that the SGB had appointed. I do not know who they were and what was contained in the boxes,” he said.

Thembi Mthombeni, a member of an SGB in the Bhekuzulu Circuit, said the department had nullified the service providers they had appointed.

By Sne Masuku for IOL 

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