THE CASH-strapped Limpopo Education Department spent millions of rands in taxpayers’ money on computers and printers that are gathering dust in hundreds of schools across the province.

The Star Africa has obtained a departmental report on the “verification of IT equipment supplied to schools”, dated November 24, 2009.

It showed that 42 percent of computers and printers supplied to 1 000 schools – or a quarter of the province’s 4 000 schools – remained unused because of a lack of electricity, security and training.

This suggests that maladministration and financial mismanagement, rather than stationery procurement problems by private company EduSolutions, could have been the root cause of the province’s raging education crisis.

The Star Africa reported last week that the provincial education department irregularly increased by R19 million the budget of EduSolutions.

It spent millions on accommodation for staff, who never attended workshops, and apparently also increased the value of the contracts of two infrastructure development companies by between 57 percent and a whopping 161 percent through variation orders.

The Limpopo Education Department failed to order textbooks in September, alongside eight other provincial departments in the country, after accumulating unauthorised expenditure amounting to R2,2 billion last year.

The scandal has seen scores of Limpopo pupils without textbooks for six months after EduSolutions failed to deliver as part of its R320m contract.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who took over the provincial education department after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan placed it and four others under administration in December, was forced to admit last week that not all Limpopo schools had received textbooks.

Penned by the department’s senior manager for asset and fleet management, Sam Mabitsela, the confidential report stated that: “It is clear from the attached report that 42 percent of the IT equipment supplied is not in use, the reason … is either that the school has no electricity, no security or the computer is not yet connected”.

Mabitsela had accused the department’s former government information technology officer Mojalefa Lekoto of breaching supply chain management practices during the acquisition of the computers.

He said it was irregular for the officer to buy, receive and distribute computers or buy quantities of assets without knowing the end user.