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Date: 08 May 2012
Title: Gauteng tightens regulation of subsidised independent schools
By Gabi Khumalo
Johannesburg - All functions related to the regulation of state subsidised independent schools in Gauteng will from now on be centralised at the Provincial Education Head Office instead of being managed by district offices.
The announcement was made by Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy on Tuesday following the release of a report on progress made on investigations into subsidies in some independent schools.
The investigations, conducted by Marumo Fivaz Security (PTY) Ltd, followed allegations of abuse of subsidies by the owners of the Ekukhanyeni Schools in Ramaphosa and Denver. The matter was referred to the department by Lead SA in October last year.
In response to the potential risk of similar mismanagement of subsidies in other schools, the department undertook a rapid assessment of all 205 subsidised schools for compliance with the conditions for subsidies.
The aim of the investigation was to determine if subsidised schools complied with the conditions relating to the qualification of teachers, utilisation of the subsidies and the current registration status of legal entities operating independent schools, among others.
The report revealed that out of the 205 subsidised schools, 112 were compliant and had the right financial management systems in place. These schools received their subsidies in December 2011.
"Fifty-seven schools were found to have minor issues that could be addressed with the implementation of policy or controls; 36 schools plus two Ekukhanyeni schools were then referred to George Fivaz for a full forensic audit; 30 of these schools received their last subsidy payment for 2011/12 in March 2012 with conditions," Creecy announced.
Of the 36 schools referred to the investigating firm, two Ekukhanyeni schools were de-registered due to alleged fraud, corruption and non-compliance.
The criminal investigation into the owner of the two Ekukhanyeni schools is still ongoing and one department official has since been suspended and charged criminally for irregularity, corruption and contravention of policy.
"Five schools had sufficient financial management and controls in place and subsequently received their subsidies in April 2012; seven schools were found to have serious instances of financial mismanagement," Creecy said, adding that currently the schools have no ability to manage their own finances.
In the interest of continued teaching at the schools, Creecy said the department had proposed to the affected schools that they place themselves under voluntary administration -- four schools have volunteered while three schools rejected the offer.
"We have referred two of the three schools to the SAPS for investigation. The department is proceeding with the withdrawal of subsidies as provided for in Notice Number 2 147. Regarding the subsidisation of independent schools, these schools are being referred for further criminal investigation and the next step will be to review their registration as independent schools."
Investigations into the remaining 22 schools are in progress, while the first quarter subsidy payment for 2012/13 has already been made.
The department has established an inspectorate for independent schools using in-sourced expertise to provide an end-to-end service to audit the finances of subsidies independent schools. The directorate will also establish operational standards and check for compliance through rigorous monitoring through announced and unannounced visits.
The department has further increased its internal capacity for the regulation of independent schools through rigorous monitoring of all other registration conditions.
A report back on the outcome of the remaining 22 schools will be announced in due course, and the work is estimated to take six months.
A total of R462.5 million was allocated to subsidising independent schools this year. - BuaNews