corruption reading pandemic

Education department officials allegedly siphoned the book budget to make unauthorised purchases running into millions of rands. Image: Adobe Stock

Corruption: Now education officials in the dock for splurging book money

Officials spent about 80% of the school book budget to the tune of R59 million on IT equipment in the latest case of education corruption.

corruption reading pandemic

Education department officials allegedly siphoned the book budget to make unauthorised purchases running into millions of rands. Image: Adobe Stock

A businessman and two senior officials of the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) as well as two former officials have appeared briefly in the East London Magistrates Court to face charges of corruption, fraud, attempted fraud, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. 

The corruption accused were Noxolo Valencia Gwarube, former Chief Education Specialist in the Learner Teacher Support Material Unit (LTSM); Mthunywa Lawrence Ngonzo, former Superintendent General (SG) and head of department (HoD) until end of June 2014; Raymond Tywakadi, acting SG and HoD of the ECDoE from I July 2014 onwards and current Deputy Director General, Tyronne Fourie, current deputy director IT support services and Johannes Hermanus Bouwer Smith, a trustee and representative of the Siegesmund Trust (Siegesmund), an IT equipment supplier.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said that the ECDoE had decided to centralise the supply of supplementary resource material (SRM), mainly IT equipment and photocopiers, which meant that individual schools no longer procured their own materials.

“It is alleged that Gwarube, Ngonzo and Fourie decided that the LTSM Unit would procure SRM, specifically IT including photocopiers, during the 2014-2015 financial year despite the fact that the LTSM Unit had not budgeted for such procurement,” he said. 

“It is further alleged that they did this under the pretence that schools were adequately resourced with textbooks. The message internally was that 80% of the textbook budget would be shifted and utilised for the procurement of SRM. There was no budget allocated for SRM and it was decided that the textbook budget would be used to cater for the procurement of SRM,” he said.

Generally, any shift of funds within the budget of the ECDoE, requires a report to seek approval from National Treasury.

“Even in this specific instance for the procurement of SRM, this process has to be followed,” Ngwema said.

He said the state had alleged that the corruption accused had not intended to formalise the shift of funds in term of the process.

The state has contended that their intention was to ignore the legislated imperative that goods had to be procured through SITA and/or relevant specified contracts.  They also allegedly disregarded their duty to comply with the provisions of the PFMA and to ensure that the procurement of goods had  been done in a manner that was fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective.

Ngwenya said Gwarube was in charge of the LTSM project.  

“Gwarube never applied for the budget to be shifted.  Ngonzo, the SG at the time was aware of the budget split but failed to ratify the intended budget split and nothing was reported to Treasury. Siegesmund supplied R59 million worth of IT equipment and Fourie signed off the request as if it was for books in order to access the books budget,” he said.

“None of the procurement protocols were followed to appoint Siegesmund as a supplier. Siegesmund was not registered on the database of registered suppliers of the ECDoE and it had very little or no experience or expertise in the supply of IT goods and services.  It was merely used as a vehicle to run the business of supplying IT equipment to the ECDoE in anticipation of being awarded the contract by the ECDoE,” he said.

Ngwema said that the state had alleged that a generally corrupt relationship had come into existence resulting in Gwarube accepting “gifts” like 26 laptop computers of which two were for personal benefit; a cell phone, Samsung Galaxy mini S4 for the personal benefit; an agreement to accept payment of the amount of R 120 486 from Border Conference Centre into an account under the control of Spectra, an account owned by Siegesmund.  

The matter was postponed to 8 July 2021 for copies of the docket and to allow for Tywakadi’s legal representative to be confirmed. The corruption suspects were granted R5000 bail each.