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Newsletters


2017-09-07
Newsletter 122 State of South African Education - Auditor-General's Report 2015/16


The Auditor General published a recent report on the State of South African Education – the full report is on the website, click on resources tab. Extracts from the report…

Introduction

“The education and training system is facing challenges that have a negative impact on service delivery in areas that include effective teaching, learning and skills development, which in turn has an impact on the capability of students to access employment opportunities. These challenges include service delivery protests, which resulted in the destruction of both basic and higher education facilities.

Significant progress was made in three of the seven basic education focus areas covered in the 2013-14 report: the learner transport scheme, the national school nutrition programme and the distribution of learning and teaching support material. This was a result of the positive response from executive authorities to our recommendations and action taken that yielded improvements in the management of these three focus areas. We also acknowledge the work in progress to address deficiencies in the other reported focus areas of professional development of teachers, infrastructure, information management and early childhood development.

Although strides have been made in addressing some of these challenges, more needs to be done to improve the quality and impact of the education and training system in the country. In the 2013-14 education sector report, I highlighted the following deficiencies in establishing and/or implementing key controls at basic and higher education departments:

  • Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines were not well established, such as preparing monthly/quarterly financial and performance reports to prevent non-compliance with legislation.
  • The identification and creation of appropriate capacity were not assessed to determine whether adequate support was available in all areas of administration to achieve project objectives and to address issues that delay service delivery.
  • Coordination between various departments and principal actors was not adequately managed to enhance accountability and improve understanding between various stakeholders of their roles and responsibilities in achieving sector objectives.
  • Monitoring and evaluation processes were not effective and should be strengthened to ensure frequent monitoring by dedicated staff that can detect, or preferably prevent, delays in service delivery.
  • Consequence management processes were inadequate to ensure that officials were held accountable and to create an environment where transgressions will not continue.”

 

Key internal control deficiencies

School and TVET colleges’ infrastructure

Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines

􀁸 Feasibility studies conducted were not sufficiently detailed to include the necessary technical due-diligence investigations for all the projects because of resource challenges. Where projects are not based on feasibility studies, it could result in cost escalations and scope changes.

􀁸 The scope of projects was not properly defined at the planning stages due to inadequate pre-feasibility investigations. The cost estimates and timelines were affected by ill-defined scoping.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 The timelines and budgets for projects were exceeded due to ineffective project and contract management.

􀁸 Inadequate supervision at sites leads to poor assessment of the work of contractors.

Education districts

Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines

􀁸 A comprehensive feasibility study was not conducted prior to issuing the policy on the organisation and the roles and responsibilities of education districts (education districts policy).

􀁸 The department did not adequately maintain its archiving system to ensure that all documents were safely stored and retained.

Coordination between various departments and principal actors

􀁸 Curriculum school visits were not planned and coordinated to provide for maximum visits to schools within the limited resources.

􀁸 The PEDs and education districts did not provide adequate guidance and support during the development of the education district and school improvement plans to ensure timely, appropriate, complete and aligned plans.

Identification and creation of appropriate capacity

􀁸 The PEDs/education districts could not appoint subject advisers to fill the funded vacant positions due to cost containment measures and ineffective recruitment processes.

􀁸 The provincial department did not provide comprehensive training and guidance on the roles and responsibilities of subject advisers when offering school support.

Consequence management

􀁸 Job descriptions, performance agreements and work plans did not include key performance on the nature and frequency of curriculum support to schools.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 Standard operating procedures and templates to record curriculum monitoring and support by subject advisers during school visits were not standardised and/or comprehensive enough to cover the required minimum activities.

􀁸 The management information systems and processes were not comprehensive enough to enable the PEDs to target support where needed and/or effectively monitor curriculum support activities.

Teacher professional development

Coordination between various departments and principal actors

􀁸 A lack of coordination between units at education district and provincial level resulted in curriculum, teacher professional development, human resource development and IQMS units conducting training that was not recorded in an integrated format.

Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines

􀁸 Teacher training records were not captured on an integrated information management system.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 PEDs did not implement processes to review compliance with the prescript relating to the annual completion of the personal growth plan, which must be reviewed by the DSG and integrated into the school improvement plans by the SDT with a view to ensuring higher levels of teacher and learner performance.

Consequence management

􀁸 PEDs did not ensure that policies, procedures and guidelines are in place for the assessment of the teacher professional development programmes to ensure that they yield the desired results.

Management of school finances

Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines

􀁸 Experience in financial management processes is a challenge at schools and SGBs across the country. SGB members and school principals are not always trained and do not necessarily understand the guidelines to be used.

Coordination between various departments and principal actors

􀁸 The support and coordination provided by PEDs, mainly in respect of training for new SGB members and principals, must be evaluated to determine the adequacy thereof and to ensure compliance with sections 42, 43 and 44 of SASA.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 Policies and procedures at PEDs are not monitored to ensure compliance and are in some cases inadequate to address the requirements of SASA, resulting in the failure of schools to prevent non-compliance.

Identification and creation of appropriate capacity

􀁸 Challenges exist, particularly at rural schools, with regard to the funding and availability of auditors to audit the financial statements. In such instances, section 43(2)(b) of the SASA should be applied and prior approval should be obtained from the member of the executive council to appoint suitable auditors with the requisite skills.

Learner and teacher support material

Coordination between various departments and principal actors

􀁸 A lack of planning processes for determining learner numbers resulted in an under- and oversupply of textbooks for schools in a number of provinces.

􀁸 A lack of coordination by key role players to ensure that reliable and credible information is provided and that every learner is equipped with the necessary textbooks at the start of the academic year.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 Inadequate monitoring by the relevant role players to prevent and detect impediments to service delivery.

􀁸 A lack of oversight and monitoring by PEDs of section 21 schools and economies of scale in the procurement of textbooks.

Consequence management

􀁸 National and SCM prescripts were not enforced when the DBE developed the national LTSM catalogue due to a lack of resources and failure to monitor compliance with the relevant legislation and procedures.

Implementation of e-education

Identification and creation of appropriate capacity

􀁸 Departments are not prioritising the implementation of the e-education strategy due to lack of funding or budget.

􀁸 Provinces are not all adequately resourced to meet Emis and e-education strategy priorities.

Monitoring and evaluation

􀁸 Provinces divert Emis funds to cover other operating costs due to limited budgets for other operational matters.

􀁸 Deficiencies identified on the Lurits system can be attributed to inadequate project management processes for system development as the user sign-off was done without thorough verification of the system functionality.

Daily/monthly/quarterly management disciplines

􀁸 The national department was still in the process of reviewing the Lurits 2 user access requirements and procedures with the State Information and Technology Agency at the time of the audit, which will eventually ensure that all the password control requirements are properly built into the system before the implementation goes live.

Skills development

While the distinct information management systems impact negatively on the reliability and credibility of skills development data, the following three internal control deficiencies need to be addressed urgently:

􀁸 Coordination between various departments and principal actors.

􀁸 Identification and creation of appropriate capacity.

􀁸 The leadership of the post-education and training sector did not ensure that all key role players within the post-school education portfolio engage collectively on sectorial issues.

􀁸 Coordination between key role players (such as Setas, NSF and institutions of higher learning) was not always adequate in improving service delivery in the area of skills development.

􀁸 A coordinated effort was not made to address challenges around monitoring and evaluation, innovative partnerships and human resource capacity.

 

Conclusion and recommendations

What needs to be done differently?

School infrastructure

  • A plan of action, with responsibilities and time frames, should be developed to address the key findings that have been raised.
  • The methodology spelt out in the IDMS should be formally adopted by all PEDs.
  • Additional criteria should be applied when appointing contractors to ensure that the planned projects are delivered.
  • Skilled built-environment specialists should be employed to address skill shortages.
  • The need to perform routine maintenance at schools should be closely monitored so that adequate funding can be secured. A formal policy and U-AMPS should be in place. TVET colleges' infrastructure
  • A plan of action, with responsibilities and time frames, should be developed to address the key findings that have been raised.
  • The methodology spelt out in the IDMS should be formally adopted by the DHET.
  • Additional criteria should be applied when appointing contractors to ensure that the planned projects are delivered.
  • Skilled built-environment specialists should be employed to address skills shortages.
  • The need for routine maintenance at TVET colleges should be closely monitored so that adequate funding can be secured. A formal policy and UAMPS should be in place.
  • DHET management accepted the recommendation to consider using sustainable principles and designs in the acquisition of municipal services, such as the use of solar power to generate electricity on site, rain water harvesting, low flow sanitation and water technologies and sustainable urban drainage storm water techniques. This will ensure that the college’s operations are not negatively affected by the scarcity of these resources.

Education districts

  • The DBE should proceed with the process of reviewing applicability and progress made since the education districts policy was issued in 2013 as part of the comprehensive feasibility study. The amended policy should include post-provisioning norms and standards.
  • The DBE should reassess and prioritise the assignment and use of existing resources to perform its mandatory oversight function.
  • PEDs should revise their recruitment processes to ensure that vacancies are filled timeously. The department should plan and use the existing resources optimally while vacancies are being filled.
  • Curriculum coordinators and circuit managers should plan and coordinate their school visits.
  • Job descriptions, performance agreements and work plans should be revised to include key performance areas on the nature and frequency of curriculum support to schools.
  • Standard operating procedures and templates to record curriculum monitoring and support by subject advisers during school visits should be revisited to ensure complete and standardised curriculum support.
  • The provincial department should provide training and guidance in terms of the roles and responsibilities of subject advisers.
  • PEDs and education districts should provide adequate guidance and support during the development of the education district and school improvement plans to ensure timely, appropriate and complete plans.
  • Management information systems and processes should be developed and implemented to:
    •  identify schools on which education districts need to focus
    • track and assess the monitoring and support provided to schools by education districts
    • measure the changes in the educational outcomes that are attributable to the curriculum monitoring and support actions of the education districts.
  • PEDs should address the lack of proper filing and archiving systems. This will ensure that documentation and information are readily available to support transactions and management decisions.

Teachers’ professional development

  • The national and provincial departments of education embarked on a campaign to ensure that the importance of adequately and correctly identifying and addressing individual teacher professional development needs is understood by the education districts and schools structures responsible for teacher professional development. The education districts and school structures (DSG and SDT) should develop, implement and consistently monitor the action plans.
  • The national and provincial departments of education should review their data-capturing systems to ensure that historical teacher training data is stored on an integrated and accessible system. The system should also have a capability to capture records of development interventions that address all teacher professional development needs, both the systemic evaluations and IQMS teacher professional development needs.
  • The current monitoring and evaluation processes of teacher professional development activities must be reviewed to ensure that the effectiveness of training conducted is consistently assessed across all provinces to determine the achievement of outcomes and impact.

Management of school finances

The Gauteng PED is commended for assisting schools to be trained via the partnership agreement with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants as Chartered Accountants are included as part of the SGB to assist schools with the financial management and reporting. Lessons learnt in this regard must be evaluated and replicated to address gaps identified with regard to the skills of principals and SGB members.

Support and coordination provided by the PED and education districts to schools must be evaluated with reference to the following:

  • Record-keeping controls, good practices regarding financial disciplines, funding to appoint auditors, training in basic financial disciplines, etc.
  • Standard operating procedures issued to schools are adequate and detailed enough to ensure compliance with SASA.

Resources available at school level must be evaluated to ensure that suitably qualified auditors are appointed to audit financial statements and that school finances are used for the purposes intended. It is also necessary that the DBE, in conjunction with the PEDs, prepare norms and standards for compliance to the requirements of the provisions of the SASA in respect of the management of school finances which also incorporates the preparation of financial statements.

Learner and teacher support material

Planning processes must be strengthened by credible information systems which will detect incorrect information submitted. Key role players for all phases of the value chain require the development of standard operating procedures to be updated and, if necessary, training should be provided to ensure that roles and responsibilities are understood and are executed and enforced. The monitoring of schools by education district offices is key to ensuring that the control environment is sound.

Implementation of e-education

Based on our findings, we recommend the following:

  • Provincial departments should consult with the national Department of Education to get a basic understanding of the white paper requirements for the implementation of the e-education strategy.
  • The departments should assess and prioritise the implementation of the basic IT controls around user access management, while security and IT service continuity controls should be monitored regularly to ensure compliance.
  • Management should identify and create appropriate capacity to support implementation of the necessary basic IT controls.
  • A conditional grant should be used to fund Emis priorities, while the national department should have the authority to monitor spending on Emis in the provinces.
  • Independent data quality audits should be conducted by all provinces to ensure that the information on the system is always accurate.
  • The national department should prioritise and fast-track the implementation of Lurits in order to address the challenges noted on Emis. This will also assist with effective reporting on the Lurits performance management system.

Skills development

  • The DHET should formalise the mechanism for collective leadership and accountability by skills development oversight structures and senior management to ensure that the skills development initiatives yield the desired outcomes and impact.
  • The DHET should facilitate a process for developing a coordinated sectorwide skills development monitoring and evaluation framework using the national evaluation policy framework of 2011 as a guideline, and also develop and implement a mechanism that would ensure that Setas share and learn data from research, monitoring and evaluation findings.

Oversight and accountability

We will engage management and the leadership of the education sector to offer support in working towards improving the following:

  • Daily management disciplines
  • Identifying and creating appropriate capacity
  • Improving coordination between the various departments and principal actors
  • Monitoring and evaluation processes
  • Consequence management.

Key role players, which include the leadership and management of the education sector, internal audit and portfolio committees, will continue working together to contribute towards the credibility of financial and performance reporting and compliance with legislation to influence clean administration within the sector. We will continue our journey to enhance accountability, to influence the process towards improving service delivery and ensure effective and efficient administration. Our objective is to further strengthen our relationship with the education oversight structures and administrative leadership to deepen their understanding of the accountability, audit and governance mechanisms, thereby paving the way towards improved public confidence. Our value-add initiatives call for a deeper understanding of auditees’ environments by focusing on value chain analysis through meaningful engagements between the AGSA’s senior leadership and those charged with accountability and oversight responsibilities.

 

Conclusion

It is important that senior management put measures in place to ensure that essential record keeping is treated as a daily discipline and that they consistently and regularly monitor implementation of the programme and evaluate the effectiveness thereof. The department should also ensure that resources are allocated in areas where shortcomings were identified, such as needs identification, information management, project management and acquisition management.