THEY didn’t have money for textbooks, but their officials spent R25 million a year running up the phone bills.

A lack of oversight by Limpopo Education MEC Dickson Masemola contributed to his department’s “pathetic” state of affairs and an unauthorised expenditure bill of R2.2 billion last year, says a secret report.

The report on the bankrupt department puts the blame on Masemola for apparently failing to act against budget “abuse” and constant deviation from the rules by his officials.

The 47-page report, which Independent Newspapers has seen, was penned by the department’s former administrator, Dr Anis Karodia, and delivered to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) during its four-day fact-finding mission to Limpopo in March.

It was previously reported that Masemola and Karodia clashed on the sidelines of the NCOP gathering over the report and subsequently fell out. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga removed Karodia from his position two months later.

The report said the department spent about R25m a year on cellphones and landlines. The figure was that high because of abuse.

It said that phones and 3G cards were “an abused commodity” and a clear indication of the “rot” that had set in within the provincial Education Department.

The document said the department issued 1 806 cellphones at a monthly bill of R1m. The department paid about the same again for its landlines. “This means that the cellphone and landline usage per year is in the region of R25m,” said the report. ‘‘This is an indictment. There are lower-down staff that run cellphone bills of R5 000 per month and continue to abuse their allocations each month with no punitive action. There is no oversight at all,” the report said.

Karodia said he was forced to cut some cellphones because of abuse. He reinstated them after implementing a policy of capping usage and putting cellphones on soft lock when limits were exceeded, the report said.

It was envisaged that for any over-usage exceeding seven months, the department would deduct the money from the staff concerned in a phased manner, he said.

Karodia warned that the abuse of 3G cards would also be investigated.

Pat Kgomo, Limpopo Education spokesman, dismissed Karodia’s report as baseless, “unsubstantiated allegations”.

“The MEC challenged the authenticity of the report and the unsubstantiated allegations presented by Dr Karodia… up to date, those allegations were never substantiated,” said Karodia.

The provincial Education Department went bankrupt in September, failed to pay for textbooks for this year’s pupil intake, and was placed under administration in December by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Thousands of pupils are still without textbooks and learning material, seven months into the new year.

Two forensic auditing companies have since found evidence of rampant maladministration, financial mismanagement, tender fraud and the looting of the department by various officials.

Karodia’s report lifted the lid on the bankrupt department, putting the blame squarely on a culture of nepotism – “family ties and friendships from the very top” – and clock-watching.

The report noted that the structure of the department was “top heavy and cumbersome”. Some senior managers had no relevant qualifications and landed their plum jobs on the basis of “political patronage”.

Karodia said the department’s financial systems were in a state of “decay, morass” and did “not speak” to the delivery of educational priorities.

The report blamed poor systems, poor monitoring and “serious” dereliction for the problem. There was “woeful” planning, execution and management, compounded by poor service delivery, the report said.

The department contravened the financial laws by splitting orders.

This is a system in which officials split a multimillion-rand tender into smaller ones of less than R500 000 to avoid putting it out to competitive bidding.

The report said officials captured staff allowances on the BSA IT system (used to capture goods), rather than Persal (used to capture staff information) to evade personal tax.