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MEDIA STATEMENT: EE PICKETS AT COEGA TO FIX APPALLING SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE

This morning, the Head of Security at Coega Development Corporation (Coega) attempted to intimidate Equal Education (EE), ahead of our pickets at 3pm today outside its Port Elizabeth and East London offices. The Coega Head of Security has told the Deputy Head of EE Eastern Cape that he is preparing security guards for our arrival. Coega claims that this disproportionate reaction is because its Port Elizabeth office is next to a National Key Point and that “other bad elements may join our protest”– but the Port Elizabeth port is in fact kilometres away! We have always been disciplined in our protests, and we will not be intimidated!

We are going ahead with our pickets, to present Coega with demands to fix our school infrastructure. Coega is one of eight Implementing Agents (IAs) that Eastern Cape Education HOD Themba Kojana has allocated the responsibility for building our schools and ensuring that they are safe and conducive environments for teaching and learning.

While Coega CEO Pepi Silinga enjoys a salary of R4,563 million in 2017, our schools languish in crisis conditions. Poor school infrastructure which Coega was supposed to fix currently poses a life threatening danger to learners. It is indisputable that IAs such as Coega are failing in their legal duty as an organ of the State to realise learners’ constitutional right to education.

Coega is a State-owned entity entrusted with public money to give both managerial and project implementation support to the Department of Education (DBE) to provide quality school infrastructure. Coega has been entrusted to procure contractors and professional service providers to build school infrastructure according to a supply chain management process that must be transparent, cost-effective, and efficient in line with Section 217 of the Constitution.

COEGA’S UNDER PERFORMANCE

The latest Auditor General’s Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) report shows repeat findings for Coega’s non-compliance with legislation, and had findings for Coega uncompetitive or unfair procurement processes.

The latest DBE Annual Report outlines that, during an audit of the DBE, it was discovered that in some cases Coega in the Eastern Cape did not comply with the supply chain management processes as agreed per the Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) signed with the Department.

Coega must also ensure that contractors and professionals are paid within 30 days, according to the law. When Coega procures contractors and professionals who cannot complete the job, fails to effectively oversee projects, and does not pay contractors on time, it is Coega which must answer to the DBE  and  to the public. Coega must conduct its work in a transparent manner in order for citizens – particularly learners, teachers, parents and communities – to hold them accountable for the  failure to provide quality service delivery of school infrastructure.

Moreover, at Coega, project managers are averaging 40 to 45 schools in the Eastern Cape. Ideally, a project manager should oversee 10 schools. Project managers are crucial because they oversee the procurement of contractors and lead consultants. When project managers are overstretched, site visits to schools decrease, and the quality of school infrastructure projects plummets.

As we have shown in our Planning to Fail Report released earlier this year, schools in the Eastern Cape continue to be made of inappropriate materials such as mud, wood, zinc, and asbestos. This is illegal. The Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure clearly outline that by 29 November 2016 the State must provide all public schools with running water, electricity, adequate sanitation and appropriate structures. Coega’s failure to build schools not only violates  the Norms and Standard law, but also delays democratic consolidation for poor working class black learners in the rural Eastern Cape.

OUR DEMANDS TO COEGA

EE demands that Coega provides a written response to every individual case of communication and service delivery failure which we have highlighted. These schools must be told in writing when the building of the school is going to be complete and why progress has been delayed.

EE demands that, within 30 days, Coega commits to provide temporary infrastructure solutions for all of the schools on its project list in which infrastructure poses a threat to learners lives, where there are  insufficient toilets, and where there are unhygienic sanitation facilities.

EE demands that Coega provides all principals to the above schools with plans clearly explaining how they will provide temporary infrastructure.

EE demands that Coega adds contractors who have failed to perform to National Treasury’s database of restricted suppliers, thereby barring those contractors from the ability to secure government contracts.

EE demands that Coega deducts financial penalties from contractors and professional service providers for slow progress of projects, including the contractors responsible for the building of Vukile Tshwete Senior Secondary School.

EE demands that Coega release a project list that details, since 2013, the number of EC Education Department projects to which Coega was allocated, when said projects were meant to be completed, and when in fact they were completed.

EE demands that, within 20 working days, Coega updates it’s EC schools project list as well as the data and publish it to their website.

EE demands that Ms Thembeka Poswa, the programme manager of the Education Department portfolio for the Eastern Cape, meets with Equal Education on a regular basis to discuss the progress of building school infrastructure in the province.

EE calls on learners, parents, teachers, SGBs and other education stakeholders to hold Coega and all other Implementing Agents, including IDT, Mvula Trust, Eastern Cape Development Corporation, and the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) accountable to their clients: primary and secondary school learners and school communities across the country.

[ENDS]

For further media comment:

Luzuko Sidimba (EE Head of Eastern Cape) 071 924 0956

Amanda Rinquest (EE Deputy Head of Eastern Cape) 083 504 5000

Masixole Booi (EE Deputy Head of Eastern Cape) 063 342 7497

Nika Soon-Shiong (EE  Researcher) 066 163 5614

 

*To follow our campaign on social media, search the hashtags #FixOurSchools and #ImplementingAgents or #IAs.

MilaMEDIA STATEMENT: EE PICKETS AT COEGA TO FIX APPALLING SCHOOL INFRASTRUCTURE