library books

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Library Books: No new books for three years for these libraries

Scores of libraries in the eThekwini Municipality have allegedly not received new library books for several years now due to ‘tender issues’.

library books

Image: Adobe Stock

Some 96 libraries within the eThekwini Metro, with a total membership of 299 145 people, have allegedly not received a single new library book since 2017 due to a flawed tender process.

In a statement issued on Monday the Democratic Alliance (DA) called on KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Arts and Culture MEC, Hlengiwe Mavimbela, to explain why no new books had been supplied to the libraries. 

However, Mavimbela’s spokesperson Phathisa Mfyuo said on Monday that the MEC and her department were not responsible for purchasing books for the municipality. She said the department was in no way responsible for library book tenders for municipalities, which issued their own tenders for book supplies.

DA KZN Spokesperson on Arts and Culture, Bradley Singh said: “The shock discovery comes amid claims by book suppliers of flawed tender processes and mismanagement of funds, from as far back as 2011, when more than a hundred booksellers were given the boot by the municipality. This while three suppliers were handed two consecutive three-year contracts.”

“The side-lining of so many booksellers, while a select few are cherry-picked for major tenders raises very serious concerns. In failing to provide equal and fair opportunities to a wide variety of suppliers and materials, the Department has also created an environment open for collusion while also failing to support small businesses operating in this sector,” he said.

Singh said it was also concerning the department’s audited budget expenditure showed that funds were allocated and used for library books, yet on the ground there was allegedly no evidence of this with book suppliers coming forward to share their accounts of what had transpired. 

He said this was after historical and emerging library book suppliers, from 2011 until now, had allegedly been excluded from doing business with the municipality.

“While a tender was advertised back in January 2018 for library books, it was only awarded a year later. Those who applied were then given four extension letters, which eventually resulted in the tender being cancelled due to irregularities. Since then no new tender has been advertised with the result that the municipality has not purchased new books since 2017,” he said.

He said the DA was shocked by the discoveries. 

“It is appalling that such an important resource to communities has borne the brunt of poor leadership within the eThekwini municipality,” Singh said.

He said this did not align with the governments ‘Read to Lead’ campaign which is aimed at improving literacy by up to 75%.

“The question is – what are people expected to do if they cannot access new books? And how are our children expected to improve their reading skills? Are those who are misusing funds intended for books for children, not ashamed of what they are doing?”

He alleged that the issue was a violation of human rights. 

“Not only is it denying our children the right to education, it is also denying individuals the right to access up-to-date information via books. We expect MEC Mavimbela to account for this debacle and explain where the funding allocated for books has gone. It cannot simply disappear into thin air. She has a lot of explaining to do,” he said.

Mavimbela’s spokesperson Phathisa Mfyuo on Monday referred questions to the eThekwini Municipality saying that the department did not purchase books for the municipality.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the city was aware of the problem.

“The city is aware of unforeseen delays in the procurement of library books. The City is currently following its Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes to resolve this issue.  The delay was caused by the city having to restart the tendering process after an appeal, this lengthened the tendering process as we had to cancel and start afresh as per SCM policies and deadlines,” he said.

“We apologise to residents for the inconvenience experienced. We are doing the best we can to ensure that our residents have access to all our library services, including access to the books they need.”