Picture: THE TIMES
Picture: THE TIMES

The department of basic education’s Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi) is moving at a snail’s pace, according to its latest annual report.

Worse still, the department has barely dented the goals it set in its annual performance plan — completing only 12 out of the 115 targeted schools in 2017/2018.

Just 29 schools out of 257 were provided with sanitation; 43 out of 344 got water; and 134 out of 620 got electricity during the period under review.

"Without a safe and conducive learning environment, it is impossible for learners to perform to the best of their abilities, and the department of basic education has effectively robbed children of bright futures and limits their right to learn," said DA shadow minister for basic education Nomsa Marchesi.

"The department blames implementing agencies, but it continues to use them," she said.

Asidi was introduced in 2011 to address poor infrastructure at schools and to prioritise schools without infrastructure and basic services. The slow pace of delivery may explain why the grant was cut in the February budget to bridge the state’s revenue shortfall and free up money for the free higher education policy announced by former president Jacob Zuma in December. The Asidi grant dropped to R1.321bn in 2018/2019, a 9% cut on the allocation in 2017/2018.

The department had not responded to Business Day’s request for comment at the time of going to press.

However, its 2017/2018 annual report, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, highlights its challenges overseeing the Asidi programme.

Auditor-general Kimi Makwetu gave the department a qualified audit, because it did not have an adequate system for ensuring that the billions meant for Asidi infrastructure assets were properly accounted for.

"I could not determine the full extent of the understatement on immovable tangible capital assets amounting to R6.24bn, and work in progress to the value of R2.6bn," he said in the report. Makwetu identified R154m in irregular expenditure due to supply chain rules not being followed, and a further R33m of irregular expenditure that is still under investigation. Most of the irregular expenditure related to the appointment of implementing agents, he said.

He identified R83.5m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.