Justice Raymond Zondo who heads the commission of Inquiry into State Capture. PHOTO: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - Three education activist groups made a joint written submission to the commission of inquiry into state capture detailing alleged corruption and fraud in South Africa's public education system this week.

Equal Education (EE), the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and Section27 said pupils have been affected by the looting of public funds by unscrupulous individuals assisted by corrupt government officials.

"Our submission is concerned with the unseen but profound impact that State capture and corruption have on the realisation of peoples’ constitutional rights. Public funds lost to corruption have been at the cost of effective service delivery, and to the detriment of learners," they said in a statement.

"Crucial components of the right to basic education are acquired through procurement systems. These components include safe and dignified school infrastructure, school meals, and textbooks. Irregularities within procurement processes or systems, compromise learners’ access to their constitutionally enshrined right to a quality basic education."

The allegations listed two cases of fraud and corruption costing millions of rands.

In the Eastern Cape, there were allegations of corruption involving senior officials in a R1 billion school nutrition programme and the long-standing corruption allegations in the awarding of a contract by the Limpopo department of education to EduSolutions to deliver school textbooks.

The three organisations said it was unclear whether the alleged corruption in the Eastern Cape was fully investigated. 

"The contract for the procurement of textbooks for schools in Limpopo was cancelled in April 2012, after millions had been paid to EduSolutions, amid allegations of irregularities, including suspicions of fraud and corruption in the bidding process," the organisations said.

EduSolutions made headlines after it failed to deliver textbooks in Limpopo in 2012. Allegations of corruption, mismanagement and maladministration were accompanied by images of shredded books, some dumped into rivers and strewn outside warehouses. The EduSolution contract to purchase and deliver textbooks was worth R565 million.

The organisations also alleged ongoing corruption in the delivery of school infrastructure.

"Significant aspects of this work has been outsourced to implementing agents (IAs), who act as professional service providers to manage the building of schools on behalf of provincial education departments. Our submission to the Zondo Commission points to instances of noncompetitive and unfair procurement processes as well as alleged corruption involving IAs in the awarding of school infrastructure contracts."

"It is concerning that years after allegations are reported, questions around these cases remain unresolved. We recommend that the Commission fully investigate procurement processes, the awarding of contracts and the implementation of the work as stipulated in those contracts, where there have been allegations and evidence of impropriety and corruption, which have directly hampered the fulfilment of the right to basic education."

It is important to have systems in place to efficiently monitor procurement systems as they are highly vulnerable to corruption, the three lobby groups said.

"Simply put, public contracting is the meeting point of significant power and money. Unless individuals are held to account for corrupt practices, impunity will continue and the poorest South Africans will continue to bear the brunt of the effects of corruption."

The commission of inquiry is led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Proceedings will resume on Monday after a two week-long adjournment.

African News Agency (ANA)