COSATU, SACP, ANC, SANCO, COSAS, SASCO AND SADTU notes with apprehension and concern the alleged irregular extension of the appointment contract of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Head of Department (HOD) Mr. Brian Schreuder as is per the report of the Public Service Commission (PSC). More alarming is the Premier's refusal to take corrective action and to actually undermine the findings of the report of this independent oversight body.
In February 2020, the PSC received an anonymous tip off that the contract of Mr. Schreuder had been irregularly extended for an additional two years, without following due processes. The PSC, established in terms of chapter 10 of the Constitution of the Public Service Act (1997), and mandated as per section 196 (2) (4), had to investigate without fear, favour or prejudice these serious allegations, which has the ability to compromise the effectiveness and efficiency of the administration, but also compromise the professional ethics and high standards of the Public Service.
As per Public Service Act (PSA), a position such as head of department, is for a fix period of five years, but can be extended by the relative executive authority at provincial level (the Premier) for a period not exceeding an additional five years. By the time Mr. Schreuder reached retirement age of 65 in 2017, his contract had already been extended twice. In accordance with sections 16 (7) of the PSA, an officer can be retained beyond his/ her retirement age (sub section 1), for a period not exceeding two years, but this is subjected to approval of Provincial Parliament by resolution. It was alleged that Mr. Schreuder's post was extended from April 2017 to 31 March 2019 and a further extension from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021.
Concluding its investigation, the PSC found that during the first period of extension (ending 31 March 2019), there were no advertisement placed for the position of HOD, which subsequently led to a further extension of his contract as early as 14 June 2018 without approval by Provincial Parliament resolution.
This in itself is a total disregard to the people of SA and the province at large as it implies that other than Mr. Schreuder, there is no capacity to fulfill the position of HOD. According to the PSC report, the Provincial Parliament has an oversight role and have to ensure that such irregularities on the part of the executive does not happen. The PSC report noted with serious concern the manipulation by the MEC and the Premier in n side -stepping the Provincial Parliament by ignoring section 16 (7) of the PSA.
The report further concluded that:
The PSC report further recommends:
As Organizations of the Mass Democratic Movement active in the education sector we note with deep concern the undermining of the PSC by both the MEC and the Premier of the Western Cape. It is unfortunate that alleged corrupt activities like these has the ability to impact on the education management of the province. The latter is visible and evident in the myriad of challenges faced by learners, teachers and parents.
Many of these challenges speak to the heart of transformation or lack thereof in the province. We have seen many incidences of racism, forced school drop outs, lowering pass rates, ailing infrastructure, overcrowding, school safety, lack of sanitation and water as well as transport needs. If ever, COVID -19 has turned the spotlight on education and whilst it was clear that in the WC the inequality was clearly visible, the MEC, unlawful HOD, and premier, decided to play cat and mouse with the lives of learners, and educators. In the light of these serious challenges and the determination on the side of both the MEC and Premier to illegally extend the contract of Mr. Schreuder, evokes many questions. The failure in addressing these educational challenges and the lack of transformation, is clearly a result of poor performance and management on the side of both Mr. Schreuder and the MEC and one need to ask why the Premier thought it okay to reward the HOD by illegally extending his contract?
When principles dared to stand up for their teachers, learners and the schooling community in addressing the fears and concerns related to teaching and learning in overcrowded and inadequate schooling facilities during COVID-19, the very same unlawful HOD and MEC, resorted to bully tactics. In the crossfire was a Heathfield High Principal, Mr. Wesley Neumann, who is disputing disciplinary procedures against him. The principal is faced with multiple charges that was brought against him of which one was his refusal to open up the school during the peak of COVID-19. Mr. Neumann has taken the WCED to court, challenging the illegal appointment of Mr. Schreuder and to test the legitimacy of the decision by the WCED, and by default Mr. Schreuder to charge him.
Further evidence of the continuous undermining of the PSC was displayed when the PSC was not invited to a meeting of the Education Standing Committee held to discuss the report on the 15th September. According to Mr Goosen who is the Provincial Public Service Commissioner, he followed the proceedings via YouTube streaming and were dismayed to hear that some of the documents were withheld and no proper context were given to the members. It was only on the 15th of October 2020, that Mr Goosen, in terms of Section 196 of the Constitution of the PSC gave a report to the Western Cape legislature Standing Committee on the Premier and Constitutional Matters.
In concluding his presentation, Commissioner Goosen raised a serious concerns about the handling by the legislature of the PSC Report, Case 1920/02/001, tabled in the Provincial legislature on 13 August 2020, which found that the extension of the contract for the appointment of Mr. Brian Schreuder as HOD of the Western Cape Education Department for a second period, to run through until he would be aged 69 in 2021 - to be irregular.
To this end, we support the recommendations made by the PSC and therefore call on the PSC to go to court and demand that the Premier implement the recommendations of the PSC report. Further we call on the PSC to investigate all the "over aged" appoints in the department, The HOD is not the only example in this department.
In addition, we call on members of the legislature to hold the Premier and the MEC accountable as such an irregular appointment is linked to irregular expenditure and breach of the office of by then Premier Zille.
We are deeply concern with the ongoing learner transport debacle in the Western Cape. The failure of the Western Cape Education Department under the leadership of MEC Debbie Schafer to resolve this matter has an impact on the poor and working class learners in the province. Matriculants are currently writing examination and this uncertainty may negatively influence their performance in this important examination. We are calling on the province to speedy resolve this impasses in the interest of the child.
The Education Alliance have noted with concern that the Province is once again on a school closure mission. Have they not learnt their lessons in the botch 27 school closure project. We are sending a warning to the DA led Education Department, that communities will not accept any violation of their children's rights to Basic Education.
Learner placement has always been a challenge in the Western Cape, with thousands of young people being out of school deep into the second term. In this "so called" best run Province, we are calling on the MEC to declare what is the plan for access to schooling and placement of learners. The Education Alliance is tired of the tune sung by the MEC who always just shift the blame to National Government for a lack of budget. How is the Provincial budget being priorities to address learner placement to ensure all children have a place in school when it commences on 25 January 2021? We have noted with concern that working-class schools are accommodating or accept learners, which the schools in the leafy suburbs reject learners even if they have space.
When will this be addressed?
COSATU, SACP, ANC, SANCO, COSAS, SASCO AND SADTU
Malvern De Bruyn - 060 977 9027