The handling of the learner transport programme by the Free State Department of Education came under scrutiny in the provincial legislature as members of the Public Accounts Committee (Propac) fired questions to officials of the department.
They sought the said committee’s approval of their 2019/2020 budget. In her State of the Province Address (SOPA) last month, Premier, Sefora Ntombela, announced that the programme would be transferred to the provincial education department again from the provincial police, roads and transport department. At the meeting with committee members on Wednesday, in Bloemfontein, the provincial education department revealed that it is currently spending about R70 million on the programme and would, in future, need more funds to see it through properly.
The head of the provincial education department, Tsoarelo Malakoane, told members of the public accounts committee that when the programme was transferred to the provincial police, roads and transport department, R40 million had, at that time, been budgeted for the programme. Malakoane said, as it stands, R70 million has been set aside for the programme meant to benefit over 8000 learners in the province, however, this may not be enough as the department is overspending on this project.
Malakoane said that, bearing in mind that the department will be going above its budget for this programme, it has requested to meet with the provincial treasury department so that the two departments can discuss “the modalities of this programme”. “It’s something we still need to discuss with them, because it’s a programme that cannot be looked at in isolation, but must be in line with other programmes,” Malakoane said.
He added that the department projects that it will need about R190 million to fully carry out the function across the various districts in the province, however, as he did not have the exact figures, he said this figure was unofficial.
Meanwhile, he also revealed that the department would soon be issuing an advertisement as it seeks new service providers to carry this function across various areas in the province. It was revealed that several of the contracts of current service providers, carried over from the previous department that oversaw this project, had either ended or would soon be coming to an end. The exact dates pertaining to this process were neither revealed nor discussed.
Pulane Choane / OFM News