Leanne Jansen

Fourteen employees of the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department, including six school principals, have been dismissed for illegally benefiting from meals intended for impoverished pupils.

Another 18 staff, including high-ranking officials, were suspended and 70 more were to be probed for corruption relating to the state’s R1-billion feeding scheme, provincial legislature members heard in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.

At a meeting of the portfolio committee on Education, chairwoman Linda Hlongwa was handed a report detailing how the poverty alleviation initiative – on which 2.2 million children in KZN depend – has been exploited as a cash cow.

For fear of compromising the cases which had been referred to the police, the document was confidential and not to be distributed or discussed, head of department Nkosinathi Sishi instructed.

The department has, however, not yet calculated the financial impact of the corruption, he said.

Last August, the department suspended the 2012/13 process to appoint food suppliers as it redrafted the policy. Previously, the power to identify and appoint service providers rested with school governing bodies. Prospective suppliers now have to respond to newspaper ads. It was also considering if independent bodies should handle the awarding of contracts.

Meanwhile, speaking about teacher training, Sishi told the committee “we are really in trouble at this point in time” in terms of the number of teachers who have the “above average” assessment skills that were necessary to teach the current curriculum.