The Department of Basic Education (DBE) and all nine provincial education departments have agreed that accountability processes need be strengthened and standardised in order to hold infrastructure agents accountable for lack of timeous and quality delivery.
The conversation took place during a Portfolio Committee on Basic Education discussion on infrastructure backlogs at national schools last week.
DBE revealed that its failure to hold infrastructure agents accountable is the reason for the nation-wide infrastructure backlog.
The portfolio committee meeting was intended to find lasting solutions to challenges within the sector as well as ensure accountability from the department.
Speaking at the portfolio committee meeting, Portfolio Committee Chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba said the incessant delays have an unwarranted and unacceptable impact on the mandate to deliver on the constitutional promise of quality education for all.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said schools in the country have been having infrastructue issues for years.
In Gauteng, calls to eradicate asbestos schools have been made since 2019.
In Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, calls to eradicate pit latrines have been made by civil society and the country’s citizenry.
In Gauteng, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Education Khume Ramulifho said Gauteng ducation MEC Panyaza Lesufi has to speed up the eradication of asbestos classrooms.
Ramulifho said the DA will submit its proposal during budget debates to put pressure on Lesufi to fulfil his promise and to ensure that all asbestos schools and classrooms are demolished and rebuilt with brick-and-mortar structures before end of this term.
In response, the SADTU Provincial Secretary in Gauteng, Tseliso Ledimo, said they union is aware of the Gauteng Department of Education’s promise to eradicate schools built with asbestos.
“However, we are not privy to the report about what has delayed the process. What we appreciate is that we have seen commitment from the GDE,” said Ledimo.
To ensure that infrastructure agents are kept accountable, Mbinqo-Gigaba said legally sound regulatory frameworks should be put in place.
Provincial departments agreed that their departments will build internal capacity to ensure that they are able to implement projects at an acceptable pace and rate.
“We are calling for a strengthened monitoring and evaluation process by provincial departments, coupled with consistent enforcement of consequence management against implementing agents,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
Adding that there is a need for an increase in allocation to eradicate infrastructure backlogs, but this is difficult in the current environment.