Corruption in schools is a focus of Corruption Watch’s operations, and since the launch of our schools campaign in January 2013, to the end of April 2014, we’ve received nearly 950 reports on schools, of which over 80% have been classified as corruption.
Results of a survey we conducted in September 2013 revealed that the main culprits of this corruption were perceived to be school principals, followed by teachers and then members of the school governing body (SGB).
At the beginning of 2013 a group of teachers from Thubelihle Junior Secondary School in Soweto, fed up with suspected financial mismanagement at their school, contacted us to report it. We investigated, and commissioned a forensic probe into the school’s financial affairs. As a result, fraud and mismanagement on the part of the principal and ex-SGB head came to light, and action was taken.
Now a school in Soweto is without an SGB after the provincial education department dissolved it, allegedly for misuse of funds. Here’s how the situation has been reported in The Star newspaper:
The Gauteng Department of Education has disbanded the school governing body (SGB) of a Soweto high school for allegedly stealing funds provided by the provincial government.
Three members out of a total of 14 had total control of the Fidelitas Comprehensive High School chequebook and, in January alone, they allegedly authorised the transfer of R29 700 from the school’s coffers into SGB chairman Jan Kgoethe’s personal account.
The Star has seen that the first payment of R20 200 was made on 6 January, when the schools were still closed. The second payment of R9 500 was made on 27 January. Both payments were made at a Standard Bank branch in Southdale, Joburg.
Allegations of fraud and corruption
The latest investigations against the SGB came after various whistle-blowers and teachers told The Star about numerous instances of abuse of school funds by the SGB.
According to The Star’s investigations, the allegations of fraud and corruption were also levelled against Kgoethe’s deputy, known only as Mr Sithebe, and the school’s financial administration clerk, Tinky Ntsie.
Last week, The Star provided the Department of Education with evidence showing a pattern of gross misuse of school funds at the Diepkloof school, prompting head of department Boy Ngobeni to spring into action and take action against the trio. The school is fully subsidised by the department.
Former principal Livhuwani Rambo Sundani, who was still principal during these transactions, did not answer numerous calls to two of his cellphones.
Kgoethe refused to answer questions on the allegations. He said he would respond on Wednesday.
While these transactions went ahead, Fidelitas was still experiencing a shortage of textbooks, desks and chairs. Pictures provided to The Star showed pupils sharing chairs and some sitting on the floor.
It’s alleged the SGB bought goods at companies whose owners were allegedly known to them, which constitutes a gross violation of the Public Finance Management Act.
In one instance, the school spent more than R45 000 to purchase goods at a company that is known to The Star. The R45 000 invoice did not have the company’s business registration and tax numbers. The school was provided only with the company’s banking details.
Some of the items bought for the school were an attendance register cover worth R9 878.88.
Forced into misconduct
The allegations of misappropriation of school funds were corroborated by one of the former SGB members. The former member said she was appointed as the SGB’s treasurer in July last year. A few days later, she alleges that the school’s financial clerk – at times accompanied by Kgoethe – made numerous visits to her house, where they allegedly coerced her to sign blank cheques.
“In one of the visits, that’s when I realised trouble was brewing. I didn’t know where the money was going. When I refused, she (financial clerk) told me I wasn’t the first person to sign blank cheques. She visited me twice, first in the morning and later in the afternoon. On all the occasions, Kgoethe had already signed on those cheques,” the woman said.
She said the last straw was in October last year when Kgoethe and Sithebe went to her house on a Friday afternoon and asked her to sign a cheque of R26 000 for cleaning materials.
“Firstly, I questioned them why so much money was needed for cleaning materials in October. I refused to sign and reminded them that I had already quit the SGB. But they forced me to sign the cheque as I was still the treasurer to them. They told me they would only stop coming once they found a new treasurer,” the woman said.
Ntsie refused to answer to allegations implicating her, and said all questions about her should be referred to the education department.
The whistleblower said that in January this year, she went to the district offices in Braamfontein twice to lodge a complaint about the misuse of funds, but nothing was done.
Six parents of the original 14 SGB members, including the whistleblower, resigned.
Department of Education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane confirmed that the SGB members had been removed with immediate effect. She said the department had appointed an administrator to run the school’s finances until a new SGB was appointed.
Kgoethe and his team were given 30 days to appeal against the decision to MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi.
Sekhonyane said the department would conduct a forensic investigation to determine the exact financial loss to the school. Actions against the three SGB members implicated would be taken after the outcome of the probe.