Equal Education (EE) has questioned why “implementing agents” (IAs) who are paid up to 10% of the value of school construction and repair projects are not being more open about their work.
“Parents are being tossed back and forth,” said EE organiser Itumeleng Mothlabane.
This was after the release of a report focusing on how difficult it is for communities in the Eastern Cape to find out when they will get their much-needed new schools, and whether the implementing agents are doing what they are paid to do.
The problem, according to EE’s report, titled Implementing Agents: the middlemen in charge of school infrastructure, is that communities are desperate for small details such as whether a school repair project has been given the go-ahead or when construction will start on a promised new school.
However, they cannot get this information from the implementing agents and as a result become very frustrated.
In its report, EE said there were currently no national guidelines for how a head of department (HoD) of a provincial education department, or of the department of basic education should decide on allocating a school infrastructure project to an implementing agent in its procurement plans.
“Service delivery agreements contain guidelines on how IAs should operate. However, there is no requirement for an HoD to research the current capacity of an IA to complete the workload, including the number of programme managers and project managers which the IA has on staff or is prepared to hire,” said EE.
“Some principals do not know the relevant IA responsible for their schools. It is unacceptable for IAs to leave school communities in the dark about construction timelines.”
Mothlabane told us the problem runs as deep as the required steering committee meetings, which should include principals and school governing bodies, mostly not being held.
Norms and standards
For school communities this means they cannot even monitor whether the implementing agencies and construction companies are doing what they are being paid for.
The report comes after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga published the binding regulations relating to minimum uniform norms and standards for public school infrastructure (norms and standards) in 2013 after lobbying by EE over the state of some schools.
This sets standards for how schools should be upgraded, the materials that schools should be constructed from, the size of classrooms and the basic services schools should have, such as sanitation and internet connectivity.
EE says, as an example, the norms and standards require that by November 19, 2016, all schools must have been provided with access to water, sanitation and electricity. Those built of inappropriate materials (mud, zinc, wood or asbestos) must have been eradicated and replaced by then.
EE said that in 2018, R9 917 734 was allocated to the education infrastructure grant and R1 472 726 toward the school infrastructure backlog grant.
The organisation says it does not believe there has been no implementation of the norms and standards set in 2013, but it is important for all parties to be familiar with the processes of rebuilding and fixing the schools to keep everybody accountable.
Provincial education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the department would study the report first, and then issue its views on the findings.