KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu announced on Thursday that three officials within the provincial department he leads have been suspended pending the finalisation of disciplinary proceedings for the oversupply of sanitary towels.
On Thursday, Mshengu released the forensic report on the procurement and supply of sanitary towels to the province’s schools, a programme that was piloted in 2016 at around R20 million and expanded in two phases amounting to R54 million each in the following year.
The forensic report recommended that appropriate disciplinary action be taken against the deputy director-general for institutional development support branch, the chief director for social enrichment programmes and the director for special needs education.
“These officials were identified as responsible for the mismanagement of the project resulting into oversupply and financial loss to the department,” Mshengu said, adding that their names would be made public once all necessary steps have been finalised.
Mshengu said the sanitary towels that were unnecessarily procured in 2017, the oversupply, was kept and “duly distributed in the following year to all the deserving learners”.
He said the report found no irregularities in terms of the awarding of the contract to supply the sanitary towels, identifying problems only at the implementation stage of the programme.
One of the issues the report identified was that neither a needs analysis was conducted for the pilot phase of the programme to determine the number of learners to benefit nor was an evaluation done to determine if it was implemented accordingly, Mshengu said.
The report revealed that the sanitary towels, which were meant to be distributed to indigent girl learners in quintile one to four schools, were also distributed to quintile five schools attended by learners from “well-to-do families” who do not need the assistance, Mshengu added.
Some schools returned the sanitary towels to the department because they did not need them, he said.
Another issue identified in the report was that Grade 4 learners who mostly do not need sanitary towels were also earmarked as beneficiaries of the programme, the MEC said.
The investigators also found that the department was misled in approving the procurement of unnecessary sanitary towels.
In a survey conducted by the investigators, it was revealed that an excess of 2,702,065 packs of sanitary pads were not needed.
They also found that there was no guide to the distribution and implementation of this project.
Mshengu said the report made no finding on the quality of the sanitary towels.
He said the department would write to the company concerned with regards to recouping money and that civil action will be taken in this regard.
The MEC said the report found that though the oversupply had been identified after the first phase of the expansion of the programme in 2017, no action was done to correct this and a second order was made in the second phase which resulted in the oversupply, meaning there was “a failure to diligently manage the programme”.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of education will now take orders for sanitary towels directly from schools based on their specific needs, Mshengu said, adding that that supply, once provided, is expected to last a period of six months.
Mshengu said the report made no findings against his predecessor, Mthandeni Dlungwane.
Around April 2017, the department approved the purchase of sanitary pads for 953,122 girl learners at the cost of R54,899,827.20. In August 2017, the department approved and issued a second order for the same number of learners and at the same cost, Mshengu said.
“In total, the department between 2016 and 2017 spent R129,799,654 to procure sanitary towels,” he said.