SIU preliminary report: MEC Lesufi must make it public to ensure justice for children still learning in asbestos schools

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes that the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) MEC, Panyaza Lesufi has received the Special Investigative Unit’s (SIU) preliminary report on decontamination of Gauteng schools and demands that it must be made public to ensure transparency and accountability in dealing with identified and implicated officials.

The GDE wasted more than R431 million on decontamination of schools within three months. This money could have been used to eradicate asbestos schools, and build more classrooms to reduce overcrowding.  On a daily basis, so many children are having their health put at risk with the exposure to asbestos.  Classroom overcrowding is also not conducive during Covid-19. If this money was spent appropriately, it would have ensured that learners are taught in a conducive learning environment where their educational development could be nurtured.

This information was revealed by the department during the Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s (GPL) Education Portfolio Committee meeting.

According to the department’s presentation, MEC Lesufi has received a preliminary report from the SIU with specific recommendations for the HOD to implement. The report has also been provided to the HOD for his consideration and action.

The recommendations include the institution of disciplinary processes against officials in the department in line with the Public Service Act and Public Service Regulations. The department is required to appoint an external legal practitioner or firm to review the report, formulate the charges and initiate them on behalf of the department. The department is also required to appoint an independent legal practitioner as the presiding officer of the disciplinary hearing.

In response to the recommendations, the HOD has considered the recommendations and has appointed an external legal team to evaluate the findings and supporting evidence, and to formulate charges against the identified officials. The HOD is currently awaiting legal advice on the recommendations, charges, and quality of evidence.

The DA welcomes the SIU’s preliminary report, and the progress made so far and believes that this is a step in the right direction to ensure that the department recovers all monies meant to ensure that our children receive quality education and are taught in a conducive environment.

We demand that MEC Lesufi must make this report public for transparency and accountability to the people of Gauteng who want to know what happened, and the role played by the implicated officials during this process. This will ensure that those implicated are dealt with accordingly and that absolutely nothing is swept under the carpet, with the monies are recovered. This will also set an example to all the government officials across all Gauteng departments that failure to adhere to the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulations will result in severe consequence management being implemented.

The DA will continue put pressure on MEC Lesufi to make this report public and to monitor the progress of implementation of the SIU preliminary report recommendations to ensure that those who are implicated are brought to book and they pay back every cent owed to the education of our children.

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