Tender corruption

Portia Mlilo
DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION HEAD OF PROCUREMENT UNIT: Thabo Mapheka

The Department of Education’s Procurement Unit is struggling to account for P17,792,975 splashed out on a textbook tender over two years ago.

In what could easily be the plot for a best-selling page turner, the ‘missing millions’ date back to the 2020/21 financial year and came to light when the Auditor General requested a detailed report from the Unit for audit purposes.

Seemingly unable to locate certain invoices and delivery reports relating to the tender, the Procurement Unit failed to satisfy the request, made on 10th October, 2022.

Adding to the struggle for accountability, Pearson, a publishing company said to have received P14 million of the tender, has since relocated to Cape Town, South Africa.

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The matter came to a head earlier this month, when the Director of Department of Basic Education, Bony Ntsaagae, wrote to the Head of the Procurement Unit, Thabo Mapheka, instructing her to submit the report by Friday 5th May as it was needed for the PAC and audits reports.

Meanwhile, the Auditor General’s report from 2021 shows there was a severe shortage of textbooks in the South East Region, both at primary and secondary school level.

During their checks, the audit team also found incidents of double procurement in some schools, while books valued at P893 023.36 were fully paid for but never delivered.

“We observed that in all the junior secondary schools, there was only one class set of textbooks provided for about 26 to 30 students. In an effort to alleviate the shortage, the ministry was at an advanced stage to introduce the use of e-books in schools,” reads the report.

When reached for a comment, Mapheka distanced herself from the mess, explaining her responsibility was to submit evidence not a report.

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She told The Voice she was not part of the tendering process and so was surprised when the Auditor General asked her to compile a report.

“There was a team tasked with the procurement process and distribution of books and I was not part of it,” she said.

“I wrote a letter to the acting director that, for us to find the information, give us time to visit schools around Botswana to check if the books were ever delivered and it was not approved. I decided to write to the accountant general to provide information, thinking they were given all the evidence of where the books were delivered when the payments were done. They told me they did not find all the evidence and gave me what they had. I was relying on the information that I got from other officers. We completed the report this Wednesday and we will compile it and submit to the audit team,” concluded Mapheka.

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