Recent outrages in the Department of Education have demonstrated again that there needs to be more regulation and accountability with regards to the way in which officials handle our tax money.
Education is absolutely essential to the rebuilding of our country, yet over decades of comedic management errors, there has been little improvement in quality, least of all for the disadvantaged who were most abused by Apartheid education bias. The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, admits that the quality of education is substandard.
Yet we have had recent reports of tens of millions being wasted or defrauded from this department in the Free State alone, including R25 million on ‘performance bonuses’ for staff. Performance?
And what is the Minister pouring her budget into in response? She’s bought two cars for her use at nearly R1m each, and she’s ordered the last-minute reprint of all senior certificates in order to make the government logo bigger. This apparently couldn’t wait until next year. The expensive imported paper on which they’re printed will ‘not go to waste’, because the paper company can use it for other things, they say. They’ve found a use for paper with senior certificates on the back? I would love to ask the Minister whether she’d have insisted on the change if it cost her performance bonus this year, or would the wastage then be unjustifiable?
It is unsurprising that government is so ‘generous’ with our tax money. They don’t have to earn it, and there’s so much of it! As the DA in the Western Cape said after mysteriously giving one of the education officials a R2m package to resign, when seen in the context of the tens of billions that the department spends in the year, it’s not all that much. Seen in the context of the US deficit, most figures are a pittance, but that is not to say that a R2m we-don’t-like-you fee is small change!
Government so often seems to have the least sense of urgency about our country’s plight, though they are the ones tasked with addressing it. Sure, it is legal for the Minister to buy a R1m Range Rover for when she’s visiting Cape Town, but as the head of a struggling department in a poor country, couldn’t she settle for driving a Jetta, and use the balance to employ another teacher for the 3-year lifespan of her car?
Government positions are far too lucrative. We seem to encourage those who view government as a means to get rich. I say pay Ministers well, but give them no car allowance or other benefits and no performance bonuses. If they happen to love expensive cars, let them purchase them out of their salaries like most of us must. If a Minister will only work when there is the prospect of more money and not for the good of the country alone, then I say find a new Minister.