Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

The Eastern Cape education department, one of the worst-run in SA, underspent its budget by R500m in 2016-17, while the Western Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng overspent theirs.

This was revealed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in Pretoria on Monday.

The R500m figure could be much higher as separate documents seen by Business Day suggest the number could be as high as R900m.

For years, the Eastern Cape has been beset by unsuitable school infrastructure, which has been partly blamed for the province’s poor performance in the national senior certificate.

The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo are home to most of the country’s poorest schools, which are often sub-par mud structures that lack basic necessities such as toilets and desks. This has been blamed for the provinces’ underperformance in the matric results over the years.

Motshekga, who held a briefing to give an update on the outcomes of her meeting with the country’s education MECs, said rural provinces continued to underspend on infrastructure, while urban ones overspent because of rapid migration.

A consequence of this was that the Basic Education Department redirected infrastructure funds to overcrowded urban provinces. The department barred the Eastern Cape from implementing its infrastructure plans because the province had lost pupils to urban areas, Motshekga said.

In addition, she said the Eastern Cape’s infrastructure plans were five years out of date. The national department was able to detect spending patterns among provinces through its internal monitoring system, Motshekga said. It then used the trends to approach the Treasury to ask it to redirect funds from underspending — "but you have to agree with the underspending province", said Motshekga.

Equal Education (EE) spokeswoman Leanne Jansen-Thomas said redirecting funds was not the solution because rural provinces needed to be capacitated to spend better.

"By providing rural departments with an excuse to neglect the circumstances of rural pupils and teachers, pupils and teachers will continue to seek better-resourced schools in
other provinces," she said.

On Monday, EE made a submission to Parliament on the 2017 Division of Revenue Bill, recommending that the equitable share formula be revised to consider the greater financial needs of rural areas when allocating funds to provinces.

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