Durban – Claims made by the IFP this week against officials in the KwaZulu-Natal department of Basic Education (DBE) who had allegedly flouted procurement procedures and appointed the use of a certain company to supply stationery, have been rejected by the office of the MEC Kwazi Mshengu.
On Tuesday, IFP member of the Education Portfolio Committee in KZN Legislature, Mntomuhle Khawula, claimed that schools in KZN, under Section 21 with Function C, received stationery from a company called Ndabase Printing Solutions.
Khawula said these schools did not order their stationery from Ndabase, but received it anyway. He said in most instances, this took place in the Ugu District on the KZN south coast, Umkhanyakude, Zululand and King Cetshwayo district municipalities.
Section 21 of the Schools Act allows school governing bodies (SGBs) an increased level of responsibility in the management of the school affairs, including its financial affairs. Schools in the category of Section 21 with function C are expected to procure their own stationery and books.
Khawula also claimed that some circuit and district officials within KZN DBE were lobbying for Ndabase, urging schools to accept stationery orders from them. Khawula did not, however, want to disclose the names of the officials who are said to be lobbying for Ndabase.
“In 2021 in KwaZulu Natal, some schools with a section 21 with function C status ordered their books and stationery. Their orders were not delivered, and their norms and standards financial allocations from the Department of Education were not honoured for them to perform these tasks.
“Instead, they received orders from a company called Ndabase Stationers. Surprisingly, these were orders which they had never made with this company. Some schools refused to accept these orders on the basis that they were still waiting for their legal orders from their legitimate suppliers.
“As the IFP Caucus in KwaZulu Natal, we want to question the department; what is the big deal with this Ndabase? We are even aware that because of their resistance to order from this supplier, some schools were punished by being shortchanged in their norms and standards allocations for 2021/22,” Khawula said.
But Mshengu’s office said that the proper procedures were followed with regards to the procurement of stationery for the schools in question.
KZN DBE spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said that when schools which fall under the Section 21 function C category fail to submit the relevant procurement and financial details to the department, they are handed over to central procurement, who places orders on behalf of them.
Mthethwa said that the department had issued a circular Number 18 of 2021 which spelt out these terms and conditions for schools to abide by.
“The processes outlined were followed. However, most of the schools from the Ugu district that fall under Section 21 did not honour the due date set for management of procurement processes as per the circular issued.
“Trying to follow up on Ugu district has not been easy, because they do not have a designated official who deals with LTSM (Learning and Teaching Support Material). We were supposed to start delivering in September, but late in October when deliveries were done by the managing agent, about 60 schools rejected the consignment.
“On investigating the matter, we found that they say that they have submitted a quotation to the district. Later the district confirmed that schools submitted quotations to the district but were not but were not communicated to the head office. They just remained with central procurement.
“They did not follow what was written on the circular,” Mthethwa told IOL.
The Independent Media also contacted the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) to see if they were aware of these IFP’s allegations, and according to provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza, Sadtu was not aware.
“It's better if I can get a hold of those schools so that I can check because I have not heard about that. What I am aware of is that some of the Section 21 schools do not have the function C and when we check if the function C is taken away, then there are challenges around auditing. That is what we know,” Caluza said.
In 2019, KZN basic education officials inspected a stationery supply warehouse in Durban named Ndabase Printing Solutions. Education MEC Kwazi Mshegnu said he was confident the company would manage the procurement and the delivery of stationery and textbooks.
Ndabase was awarded a tender worth R1.6 billion for Learner Teaching and Support Material (LTSM) for a three-year period.
CEO Thanda Nyide said he was awarded the tender in August 2019. Ndabase started supplying KZN schools with stationary from the 2020 academic year.