04/10/2017 15:48 SAST | Updated 04/10/2017 16:03 SAST

DA Slams Irregular Expenditure At Higher Education Department And Ipid

These are “ominous warnings, which need urgent attention”.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.
Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has lashed out against the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the department of higher education and training over massive amounts of irregular expenditure revealed in annual reports on Wednesday.

In a statement, the party's Zakhele Mbhele said the 2016-17 Ipid annual report showed that irregular expenditure at the department had piled up to as much as R21.5 million last year.

"This regression of its financial management, owing to a politically driven period of organisational destabilisation under former police minister Nathi Nhleko, is now impacting on its ability to carry out its mandate of conducting independent and impartial investigations," Mbhele said.

Irregular expenditure at the organisation increased by 739.5 percent from the previous year.

"The R21.5 million is made up of R12.7 million from 2015 and R6.3 million from last year, all of which is yet to be approved," Mbhele said.

"Ipid [is] meant to be the watchdog over those entrusted with our safety and security and [was] compromised in [its] ability to do so, thanks to a minister at the time who actively worked against its effectiveness and an unfit-for-purpose leadership that seemed intent on hollowing out its capacity."

In a separate statement, the DA said the auditor general's 2016-17 report on the higher education department contains a range of "ominous warnings, which need urgent attention".

The report found that irregular expenditure reached R929 million in the 2016-17 financial year, 94 percent of which has not been investigated yet.

The DA's shadow minister of higher education and training, Belinda Bozzoli, said most universities carried enormous levels of student debt, much of which has to be written off, and that their situation is likely to have worsened rather than improved in the subsequent two years.

"This massive and unwieldy department has 78 entities reporting directly to it, as well as indirect responsibility for 26 universities. Managing all of this is too much for it to handle on its current budget and staffing level, as our economy staggers under the burden of ANC failure," Bozzoli said.

"Our students in SETAs [sector education and training authorities], TVETs [technical and vocational education and training institutions] and universities are being seriously let down as the department and its institutions decay. The future of higher education looks bleak and this situation must be addressed with urgency."