KZN Education ‘made savings on PPE’
DURBAN - AN investigation into the Covid-19 expenditure by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has found that it saved millions of rand by negotiating with suppliers.
The department revealed that an investigation by the provincial treasury on the spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) found that it had saved more than R300 million.
The savings claim has been met with scepticism by some opposition parties, who said this was not in line with what they had been told before.
Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said the findings provided relief for many of the department's workers who had been under a cloud of allegations that they had “stolen” the department’s money.
The department had spent about R478m on Covid-19 supplies, when it could have spent more than R800m if it had not negotiated, he said.
“There are many workers in the department who have been under pressure because they were talked about as having stolen money.
“The audit conducted by the provincial treasury was against the background of a public narrative propagated by some who thrived and probably made a living based on dishonesty and telling lies, that the Department of Education had procured the Covid-19 essentials at the maximum and even higher prices in breach of treasury regulations,” he said.
“The department stood accused of having failed to negotiate down the prices, and this narrative continued in spite of the available evidence to the contrary.
“In its report, the provincial treasury found that the KZN Department of Education was able to achieve significant savings during the procurement process through price negotiations with PPE suppliers,” he said.
“These savings have ensured that the department is able to extract maximum value from every rand spent, thereby ensuring that sufficient PPE is made available to schools. These findings will put to rest earlier reports that had accused the department of over-spending on PPE,” he said.
IFP education spokesperson Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa said the claims of savings by the department were meaningless as many schools in rural areas were short of PPE.
“They keep talking, yet in the rural schools there is still a shortage of PPE, some children received only one mask,” she said.
DA education spokesperson Dr Imran Keeka said it was odd that the department was now claiming savings, as the head of department, Dr Enock Nzama, had previously defended some of the high prices the department had paid.
“It's clear that the MEC has forgotten the findings by the Special Investigating Unit that pointed to skulduggery by the department’s officials.
“This must be seen for what it is, a pathetic attempt to dodge accountability and to deceive the public,” he said.