Limpopo education department’s wasteful expenditure led to Michael Komape’s pit-toilet death

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Michael Komape's parents James and Rosina. Source: GroundUp
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Chester Makana

The bid by state to plead poverty over poor sanitation infrastructure development and maintenance has been dealt a major blow after an expert painted a bleak picture of how the Department of Basic Education incurred unathorised expenditure of a staggering R2 billion while school’s toilet remain in a bad condition.

Daniel McLaren, a budget specialist, revealed a series of unauthorized expenditure, irregular and wasteful expenditure between 2011/12 and 2015/16 financial year show that department repeatedly under-spent and returned money to national Treasury.

Komape’s family and Section 27 has dragged Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to court to demand for loss and damages over Michael Komape’s death.

Michael fell a pit toilet and died at the Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village outside Polokwane in January 2014.

The energetic Michael had just spent days in the school starting Grade R. However, his journey was short changed as he was found in the pool of faeces.

His hand was outstretched on the dilapidated toilet with other parts of the body covered by faeces.

Earlier state counsel argued that government is doing its best to address infrastructure backlog and it’s struggling due to budget constraints.

On Tuesday, Section27’s Mark Heywood told court that the department is failing to plan on how to improve and deliver safe school toilet.

He argues that toilet in more than 414 schools were found to be not safe as far as 2011/13 financial year.

Shockingly, even the concentrated focus to mitigate on the challenge also failed to heal the situation, as projects were not completed on time.

McLaren also argued that last year the department managed to access funds to address the damage caused by the storms in the province.

The department was placed under administration in 2011 after it emerged that the adherence to Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) were ignored and violated, resulting in financial collapse.

During his testimony, McLaren also revealed that financial irregularities were however stabilized when Section 100 administrators took over province’s financial affairs.

The department was part of five departments placed under administration by National Treasury which saw former MEC of Education Dickson Masemola’s powers to run the department reduced.

The hearing was adjourned until Thursday for state to cross-examine McLaren evidence which was centered on department spending pattern.

 

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