Ladies and Gentlemen
There were persistent damning allegations reported in the media last year that some members of Teacher Unions and Education Department officials were involved in illegal activities involving the selling of educator posts. On the basis of these allegations I held meetings with various stakeholders including Teacher Trade Unions as well as the Associations of School Governing Bodies. Consensus was reached on the need to speedily investigate the allegations and it was agreed that a Task Team should be established to probe these claims.
The allegations pointed to possible widespread corrupt practices involving the irregular appointment of educators across provinces, districts and schools.
The basis of the investigation by the task team was to inquire into and report to allegations made in the media regarding the alleged irregular appointment of educators at schools and the role played by any union and by officials of Provincial Education Departments in these alleged irregular appointments.
The Task Team commenced its work at the end of September 2014 and was initially given 120 days to complete its work.
However, given the complexity of the investigation the timeframe was extended on the request of the MTT until the end of December 2015. The Task Team probed a total of 75 cases, 30 of which provided grounds for reasonable suspicion or wrongdoing. In carrying out its work the MTT was guided by the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act (12 of 2004). The Task Team has now submitted a preliminary report on the work done thus far.
The report we have received is still an interim report at this stage but it has uncovered some very concerning tendencies that are being perpetuated in the appointment of teachers and principals. We are still awaiting a final report from the MTT despite the fact that it has been repeatedly postponed, this is due to challenges faced in the nature of the work they are doing. Corruption is difficult to deal with because of the fear for self-incrimination and the need for police involvement including the protection of witnesses, whistle blowers & indemnification. Therefore we are unable to release the full details of the report at this sensitive stage.
In our view the report does confirm the following:
1. That there is corruption and undue influence in the appointment of teachers and school principals.
2. That there are weaknesses in the system,
3. That the authority of the state and powers of certain stakeholders in the appointment process would need to be reviewed.
The interim report indicates that Government Systems have created a situation that allowed an exploitation of the system which compromised proper appointments in critical posts such as those of school principals. This has undermined Government’s ability to deliver on its priority which is education, by allowing Unions to have a strangle hold on Government whereby they call the shots.
Some Provinces do have cordial relationships with clear lines of authority between Unions and Government; however, the report indicated that in the majority of Provinces some Unions run, and to an extent appear to control Government for selfish reasons which don't benefit learners or the country. This practice cannot be allowed to continue. As a Department we will engage all our stakeholders and ensure that we put in place a more stringent regime that will allow only those who qualify and are competent to be appointed. Merit must be the only determining factor when it comes to appointments particularly in our schools.
The Ministerial Task Team is of the view that the dominant influence of Unions in the appointment process has been made possible by the feeble and dilatory condition of Districts and Circuits. There is no doubt that this has permitted Unions to move into areas in which they have no business. But now, through the inexorable creeping of nepotism, these sectors of Government are as subject to undue influence as every other sector.
The Task Team worked through many cases and in the process found that there is evidence of wrong doing. It is for this reasons that a forensic investigation is still continuing.
This situation cannot be allowed to persist and I must say that there will be consequences. The police will be contacted and arrests could follow in regard to particular cases where strong evidence exists pointing to illegal activities.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) will be requested to assist in ensuring that the cases are brought to the courts with speed. We believe it's not just about the selling of posts but protecting the sector, and maintaining its professionalism in order to ensure quality and efficiency in the education system.
The Task Team has also made recommendations that will have implications on the way we do business. Some of the recommendations need thorough consideration and would be affected through the normal policy processes. Once the final report has been submitted and input obtained from stakeholders in the sector we will proceed to make the necessary changes required to strengthen our systems.
We will use this report and the recommendations therein to remediate the system and ensure that we bring this rot that has infiltrated education under control. This blatant exploitation and corruption will not be tolerated. We commit ourselves to take this report very seriously and take the strongest possible action to ensure that learners’ needs are the priority in education. I need to add that the Report will be taken to Cabinet and Parliament for consideration.
I must take this opportunity to thank Professor John Volmink and his team for the work they have done. It was a complex and sensitive task which was handled with the utmost professionalism.
I thank you.