05/10/2012. Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga speaking to the media on World Teachers Day at the SA Council of Educators' new offices in Centurion. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - The failure of the government to deliver textbooks to Limpopo pupils is neither a crisis nor a scandal.

This is according to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. She put the blame on the media, expressing shock at how journalists had ‘’blown up’’ the saga. She was speaking at the opening of the new SA Council of Educators offices in Centurion. The event, which took place on Friday, was also in commemoration of World Teachers Day.

“Priests disappoint… and even journalists disappoint. But it doesn’t mean journalism is bad,” she said. “It must be known that the shortage of textbooks is not a crisis nor is it a scandal. Out of the 1.3 million books the department ordered for this year, we did not receive 500 000 of them.”

The steps taken by the department – like distributing modules – to assist the schools that had not received textbooks, were overlooked, she said.

Meanwhile, The Presidency wants the director-general of the department to be investigated, based on the report of the presidential task team into textbook saga.

President Jacob Zuma had decided that the Public Service Commission should investigate Bobby Soobrayan, his spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Friday.

This was to do with issues including Soobrayan’s alleged indecisiveness on receipt of a letter from the textbook publishers in December.

In the letter, the publishers reminded him that the learner- teacher support materials had not been ordered for the Limpopo Education Department.

He also apparently failed to provide the necessary support when the provincial Department of Education was placed under national administration.

In the report, the task team recommended that Soobrayan be investigated.

“The president views the failure to provide textbooks to Grades 1, 2, 3 and 10 in Limpopo in a very serious light and wants to ensure that there is no recurrence of the problem,” Maharaj said.

Zuma asked Motshekga to supply information on the supply of LTSM to the affected schools and the implementation of the catch-up plan for Grade 10 pupils.

Motshekga was asked to report back by Friday.

The task team also found that a new curriculum for Grades 1, 2,3 and 10 was a major cause of the problem, and that other grades had not been affected. Reasons for the delays included that the Limpopo Education Department had outsourced the procurement and distribution of support materials and had not implemented a risk management plan.

It had also not taken orders timeously nor had it managed the contract with the service provider, EduSolutions, efficiently.

Orders for stationery were prioritised over textbooks.

Neither the national nor provincial departments had credible data on how many pupils needed to be catered for.

Sufficient funding was made available for textbooks by the provincial Treasury, but there was overspending in other areas. For example, the filling of unfunded posts cost about R122.8 million.

There was also “a general tendency to disregard and transgress legislation”, the task team found.

The ethos prevalent in the provincial department did not promote a system of accountability and there was a lack of clarity on who should handle the procurement. As a result, the Limpopo Department of Education did not order books for the current school year.

Before the department was placed under administration, EduSolutions suspended the procurement when the department could no longer pay it.

Evidence regarding textbook dumping was not presented to the task team because the matter is before the courts and a disciplinary hearing is in progress.

Legislation allowing the national government to monitor and support the provincial government more effectively through a system of early warning signals might have averted the problems.

The task team found that if such legislation had been passed, there would have been greater clarity on the various roles and responsibilities necessary.

“However, the absence of such a law cannot be used as an excuse for the Limpopo intervention not being effective and the failure to provide schools with textbooks,” it said.

The team recommended that the national Department of Basic Education develop a policy to standardise the procurement and distribution of the support materials.

It also recommended that the proper mechanisms should be developed to monitor the Grade 10 catch-up plan, and that there should be a quarterly report to the cabinet on the progress. - Pretoria News Weekend