Johannesburg - Free State has lost an education infrastructure grant - a whopping R86.9 million - because its provincial education department was unable to spend the allocated funding.

The money - allocated in the form of a conditional grant - was meant to “accelerate construction, maintenance, upgrading and rehabilitation of new and existing infrastructure in education”.

It was also meant to address damage to infrastructure caused by natural disasters and achieve targets in the norms and standards for school infrastructure.

The withdrawal of the funds is revealed in a Government Gazette published last month and signed by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan days before he and other ministers were axed by President Jacob Zuma.

The money has since been re- allocated to KwaZulu-Natal which met its delivery targets and because it needed additional funding.

“The national Department of Basic Education re-allocates funds (R86.890 million) to KwaZulu-Natal for the education infrastructure grant, following revised allocations by the national Department of Basic Education,” the gazette notes.

Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga could not be reached for comment.

But KwaZulu-Natal education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the province welcomed the re- allocation. “This means that our infrastructure plan we implemented in the financial year was such that National Treasury gave us more money,” he said.

The re-allocation of the money was a clear indication that KwaZulu-Natal had the capacity to implement its infrastructure plans, Mahlambi added.

The Department of Basic Education had allocated R9.9bn towards the education infrastructure grant with the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape receiving the lion’s share of the amount - over R1bn each.

Free State, which was allocated R695m, had its grant slashed to R608m due to its failure to spend the allocation.

KwaZulu-Natal’s grant has since been increased from R1.958 bn to R2.045 bn.

The reallocation of the funds to KwaZulu-Natal is a change of fortune as the province has in the past failed to spend other grants.

In 2011, it lost R200m in housing grants when it was unable to spend its allocation.

This happened when the Human Settlements Department took a total of R463m from KwaZulu-Natal and Free State and gave it to the Northern Cape and Limpopo, which had met their delivery targets.

However, its housing grant received an additional allocation amounting to R308m, which had been re-allocated from other provinces.

The Sunday Independent