Gauteng education dept under scrutiny for spending R431m in 3 months on sanitising schools – News24

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Fumigation takes place in a classroom in preparation of the opening of schools under Level 3 lockdown.

Fumigation takes place in a classroom in preparation of the opening of schools under Level 3 lockdown.

  • Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is taken aback by a report which reveals the department spent about R431m on school decontamination, disinfection, deep cleaning and sanitising.
  • According to the report, the scope of work done varied in relation to the size and complexity of each facility. 
  • Lesufi says in the advanced stages of his consultations with law enforcement agencies about an investigation into the matter.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says he is dismayed after his department spent more than R400 million on the decontamination, disinfection and sanitising of schools.

The money was spent in the three months since schools reopened in June 2020, after they closed due to Covid-19.

The MEC said he was in the advanced stages of his consultations with law enforcement agencies about an investigation into the matter.

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The Gauteng Government Expenditure Disclosure report, compiled by the infrastructure management directorate in the department, revealed that the total amount of money spent to sanitise schools between June and August was R431 274 959.17. 

The report stated that prices for suppliers were based on the estimated square metres of the facility or school. Service providers invoiced the government on the basis of the affected square metres. 

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A total of 2 207 schools and 38 administration buildings were disinfected.

Cleaned

The report listed all the service providers that cleaned the schools and facilities, and some received millions for multiple services rendered. The appointment of service providers was based on their capacity and availability.

The report also stated that the service providers were appointed from the central supplier database(CSD), based on their specialities.

Lesufi said he was engaging with the Auditor-General to verify if there was any value in the amount spent.

“I wish to reaffirm my commitment to leave no stone unturned on this, including holding on those who procured these services accountable,” the MEC said.  

The report provided context for the school cleaning:

“The amount paid represents work undertaken between June (resumption of schooling) to the end of August. The extent of the school(s) elemental spaces differed from facility to facility (school and facilities).

“The Covid-19 virus was novel and information and certainty on certain aspects was confirmed as time went on. As from Alert Level 3, the intervention strategy was to attend to the educational facilities (whole), [this] was based on the available information at the time, which meant the intervention was targeted at the whole facility.

“This was based on the information available at the time and advice given by health authorities. As time went on, information became available that the intervention did not need to cover the whole facility but rather the specific areas that had been occupied by persons testing positive.

“The average size of schools is a 2 500 square metres of built-up area. The average school in Gauteng caters for at least 1 000 learners, with a profile of 28 classrooms, [an] admin building, specialist rooms (library, laboratory, computer room, media room, multi-purpose rooms, consumer studies rooms…).” 

The average price paid for a school is R250 000, which translates to R100 per square metre for decontamination (includes fogging), disinfection and cleaning.

But the DA has called on Gauteng Premier David Makhura to also initiate an urgent investigation.

HOD must explain 

While the department said the amounts were spent on all schools in the province, the party said Makhura’s probe should ascertain how much was spent per school and that it should also identify those that were sanitised by cleaning company, Bidvest, for free.

“The investigation should also determine where the money was used as the department denied any expenditure in this regard. Should it be found that there was an element of corruption where companies submitted invoices for no services rendered, the head of department must explain.” 

The party said probes in this regard should ensure the money was paid back and that those involved in corruption faced the consequences. 

The party said: 

“Premier Makhura should hold the Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi, accountable for the millions spent on fogging schools for a period of only three months. These millions could have been spent on building more schools and providing additional mobile classrooms to ensure that all learners are placed and to ease overcrowding in classrooms.”

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