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File Image: IOL

Call to regulate school fund-raising ventures

By KAILENE PILLAY Time of article published Jun 18, 2019

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Durban - Fund-raising in public schools may soon be regulated - so much so, that should a school not use the funds for the specific purpose it held the fund-raiser, the money would have to be returned to the donors.

This is part of a proposal on financial reporting guidelines for school which was drafted by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica).

The proposed uniform financial reporting guidelines have been submitted to the National Department of Basic Education for consideration and adoption as a national policy to guide financial statement preparations by public schools.

Saica believes that if their proposal is adopted, it would decrease the high level of financial misconduct at schools.

Fund-raising at schools was one of the major points raised in the proposal, with Saica suggesting that general fund-raising was allowed to be used for miscellaneous purposes, and fund-raising for a specific purpose would be monitored more strictly.

“Fund-raising is specific when the funds raised can only be used for a specific purpose, and the money will have to be paid back to the contributors if the funds are not used in line with the agreed conditions,” reads the proposal.

The National Association for School Governing Bodies called for the proposal to be properly interrogated and consultation processes to include school governing bodies before the adoption of the proposal.

General-secretary for the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Matakanye Matakanya, said as it stood they supported the effort to curb financial misconduct at schools, but would be against the proposal that money from specific fund-raising events be ring-fenced.

“A school could hold a fund-raiser for a new swimming pool this week, but the school could suffer severe storm damage the next week. Does the proposal suggest we return the swimming pool money that we have on hand and then do another fundraiser to fix the school?

“The school should have the power to redirect that money to the school’s direct and immediate needs,” Matakanya said.

He said that parts of the proposal revealed “an extended amount of red tape” in delivering to the needs of the pupils and school.

“Parts of this proposal suggest it wants to take away the powers of the school governing body (SGB). The SGB formulates policies and the SGB, teachers and principal will know the needs of the school better than the department,” Matakanya said.

One parent, familiar with the draft proposal, suggested that the number of fund-raisers a school has should also be regulated.

The Durban mother of two said that regulating how many fund-raisers a school could have in a month would “get a double thumbs-up from me”.

“As a parent of two girls, I have two sets of school fees to pay. Then there’s ‘Book Day’, bake sales, raffles, a T-shirt for music evening and another T-shirt for something else. Where do parents get a break?” she asked.

The parent, who asked not to be named, said she understood schools needed to find ways of bringing in extra funding, but the number of fundraisers per term was overbearing for some parents.

“Parents are already under so much stress with the rising fuel costs and tariff increases. We try our best to pay school fees on time, but with the added costs that creep in every week, it’s a bit too much on us,” she said.

The Department of Education confirmed they had received a proposal by Saica, but could not comment further, saying it was still reviewing the document.

Public schools are required by the SA Schools Act to prepare their financial statements in accordance with guidelines determined by a member of the executive council (MEC).

“Unfortunately, in some of the provinces such guidelines have not been issued by the MEC,” said Julius Mojapelo, Saica senior executive for the public sector.

“In the provinces where the guidelines are issued, the guidelines don’t adequately address the accounting treatment, presentation and disclosure requirements for key items in the financial statements,” he said.

Mojapelo said the lack of clarity on the accounting treatment of some items had led to public school financial statements that were not comparable, and in certain instances not useful for decision-making by users, such as creditors, parents and donors.

“Auditors and accounting officers are also not able to provide appropriate reports on the financial statements, as they have no common criteria against which to audit or examine the financial statements of public schools,” Mojapelo said.

The Mercury

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