28 September 2012

Learners go without text books while Department of Basic Education spends millions on travel and events

Records released to SAHA under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) show that the Department of Basic Education spent over R100 million on travel and events for the 2011/2012 financial year.

The department has been in the spotlight recently for its failure to deliver textbooks to learners in Limpopo after the national government assumed the administration of the province in December 2011. A key contributing factor for the failure was the slashing of the textbook budget from R581 million to R261 million.

While an estimated 1.7 million learners in Limpopo suffered as a result of budget cuts and administrative incompetence within the department, the records released to SAHA reveal that spending by the department on travel and events in 2011/2012 more than doubled from the previous financial year.

The department spent almost R45 million on accommodation (up from approximately R15 million in the previous year), almost R36 million on air travel (up from approximately R17 million in the previous year), almost R17 million on drivers for departmental staff (up from approximately R11 million in the previous year) and just over R11 million on hosting meetings (up from approximately R4 million in the previous year).

All government's have finite resources, the distribution of which is one of the key indicators of a government's performance. A two-fold increase in spending on what essentially amounts to incidentals in the face of budget shortages for the delivery of quality education to South Africa's children must be an indicator that the Department of Basic Education is failing in its duty to distribute its finite resources responsibly.

Download the records: AL2878 - Freedom of Information Programme Collection