Basic Education Department failed our children by missing construction targets

The Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) annual report reveals irregular expenditure amounting to R1.4 billion and underspending of R874 million on a critical programme which is responsible for school and infrastructure construction. The underspending on payments for capital assets in the school infrastructure budget is R558 million.
Given these massive problems in the construction of schools and school infrastructure, DA Deputy Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Nomsa Marchesi MP, will now conduct oversight visits to failed and delayed school projects in the fourth Parliamentary term.
Next week, the Parliamentary Committee on Basic Education will also receive a briefing by the Financial and Fiscal Commission on spending patterns on infrastructure and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative and will thoroughly interrogate the issue following this.
School infrastructure should be a major priority for the DBE, but this is clearly not the case as it failed to achieve their targets for all four school infrastructure performance indicators.
Schools cannot be fixed – or even built – if the issue of irregular spending is also not resolved. Among the main reasons many schools have not been completed is the fact that contractors were changed without proper procedures being followed. The Auditor-General drew special attention to the high amount of irregular expenditure. This year alone, R621 million was mismanaged in this way.
This points to a complete failure by the DBE to manage this crucial programme properly. The department and the minister, Angie Motshekga, cannot continue blaming provinces and bad contractors for the delay in delivering safe schools.  It is time for them to take responsibility for the fact that thousands of children continue to learn in substandard buildings.
At an estimate of R40 million per school, 14 state of the art schools could have been built for close to 10 000 learners, but the money is simply not being spent.
Basic education is vital for improving the circumstances of South African children and building their futures, but they cannot achieve and thrive if their learning environment is falling apart. The DA will ensure Motshekga and the DBE are held accountable for once again failing our children.