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Heads must roll: Committee wants answers on GDE decontamination expenditure

A report has revealed that more than R430 million was paid to service providers between June and August last year on sanitising schools.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the Helpmekaar Kollege after the school reopened on 18 January 2021. Picture: DBE.

JOHANNESBURG - The portfolio committee on Education in Gauteng is concerned about the wasteful and irregular expenditure by the Gauteng Education Department, which spent almost half a billion rand on sanitising schools.

A report has revealed that more than R430 million was paid to service providers between June and August last year.

READ MORE: Lesufi calls for probe after R431m spent on disinfecting GP schools

The decontamination was not recommended by the Health or BasicEeducation departments.

Chairperson of the committee Matome Chiloane has called for an investigation and for those found guilty of the misappropriation of funds to face the consequences.

He said that the department spent exorbitant amounts of money on the services, despite assuring the committee that everything was above board.

“We want heads to roll. It cannot be that during our oversight work, we feel that we have been misled because when we asked questions we were told that there was no such issue up until we saw this report. We are concerned and are calling for an independent investigation to be done by an independent body that is not linked to the department.”

ALSO READ: DA calls on Makhura to take action against Lesufi

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said that he'd consulted with law enforcement agencies and the Auditor-General.

“Whoever was responsible must know that we will take appropriate action.”

'MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER SPENT'

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said that the millions of rands spent by the Gauteng Education Department on fogging schools could have instead been used to build brand new schools to help ease overcrowding.

It’s understood that hundreds of companies which appeared to have had no expertise or prior experience in the cleaning industry benefitted from the projects.

Lesufi said that he was not aware of these transactions but the DA Shadow Education MEC Khume Ramulifho said that they warned him.

“So, now we are surprised that, indeed, the department was actually spending money and we believe that this money that was used didn’t go to the schools and that is why we are calling for the premier to launch an investigation so that there are consequences against those involved and take action against them including paying back the money.”

SUMS DON'T ADD UP

Pest control, hygiene and interior landscaping company Rentokil said that the sums just didn't add up.

Spokesperson Nathalie Leblond: "Based on our cost model, it does seem very high, significantly more than what we would charge. However, there are things that would need to be considered, obviously, we don't have all the facts."

Leblond explained what a reasonable amount would be to pay for defogging and decontaminating a building.

"If it were a precautionary like we said, and there'd been no confirmed case of COVID on-site, and we're going in just for peace of mind, which is what a precautionary service would be, I would say that under R10 a square metre would be a more reasonable price to look at."

Additional reporting by Shamiela Fisher.

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