Thursday, July 7, 2022

BEC blows P40 million on new exam system blunder

Skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboards as controversy surrounding the Botswana Examination Council (BEC) new examination web based system and the 2012 schools examination scandal follow the suspension of its Executive Secretary, Dr Serara Moahi.

It is understood that Moahi’s suspension is part of a winder approach to the investigation process that is being undertaken by a panel appointed by the Board to investigate possible maladministration at BEC.

Sunday Standard has turned up information that the Council wasted more than P40 million on its new examination system called the Botswana National Examinational Processing System (BNEPS), especially the web-based Malepa which has never worked effectively.

Information gathered thus far indicates that the Council commissioned a local consultant to design the new examination system for the purposes of processing and releasing the Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE), Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) and Primary School Living Examination (PSLE) for a P1.7 million tender.

However, after the web-based system was designed, the consultant allegedly skipped the testing stage and went on to the implementation stage.

Sunday Standard can reveal that at the implementation stage, it was discovered that the new web based system was riddled with errors which could have been detected at the testing stage. The result is that BEC ended up paying the consultant more than P40 million to “fix the system now and again” instead of the P1.7 million that it had budgeted for the tender.

While he does not have the exact figures, BEC Public Relations Officer, Charles Keikwatlhae, confirmed that they had requested for more funds from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development for the project.

“I’m not sure about the figures because as we speak I’m not in the office but what I know is that more funds were requested from the Ministry of Education to augment what we had for the project,” he said.

While he also confirmed the suspension of Moahi, Chairman of BEC board, Dr Joseph Tsonope, said he was not aware of the alleged P40 million that the BEC is said to have paid the consultant.

“At this stage, we do not know what the panel that was engaged to investigate BEC will unearth. You should know that Section 1.0 of the Council provides for suspension from duty pending investigation. And as for now there is no reason why she was suspended,” said Tsonope.

Tsonope added that “the investigation by the panel of investigators is at an advanced stage and the panel will be done soon. We expect to submit the report to the relevant stakeholders after the investigators are done”.

Insiders revealed that since its inception, the Malepa web-based system has been dysfunctional all along, resulting in BEC struggling to process and release examinations on schedule.

Sources added that the system has never worked for BEC since its inception after the national examination board severed ties with the United Kingdom based Cambridge International Examination in 2012.

“Before the release of the BGCSE results recently, they attempted to release them earlier on but at least 10,500 results disappeared. The BEC had to engage an international consultant from UK to come and use the old system to process and retrieve the missing results manually,” sources said.

“The Malepa based system was also never piloted. They did not run it parallel with the old system because the decoding was not done properly. The UK based consultant was roped in in December last year and faulted the consultant who initially did the decoding, saying it was not done properly,” said sources.

It is also understood that Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is not aware that the results are not being processed using the Malepa application web based system; “but through bits and pieces of the old system”.

“They pumped a lot of money into Malepa and the BEC management does not want the public to know that it has failed the nation by processing and releasing the results through another consultant,” sources also revealed.

The insiders also cast doubt on the accuracy and authenticity of the examination results.

“The Malepa system is not ready. The results that have been released are not the accurate ones because they are done manually using the old system. That is why BEC has been misleading the nation that they are experiencing technical problems. The results are full of errors. As we speak, BEC is in consultation with another consultant in South Africa on how best they can solve the crisis that they found themselves in,” said sources. They said BEC is expected to brief cabinet on March 14 this year on the Examinations processing system.

“As the BEC staff, we are also questioning the accuracy and legitimacy of the PSL and JCE results. We wonder if they are guanine because there was a lot of remarking as far as JCE are concerned,” said one of the sources.

It has since emerged that even Tanzanian authorities questioned the BEC executive secretary, Serara Moahi, while in that country recently if BEC would be able to release the exams using the new system.

“The Tanzanian authorities are still waiting for feedback since they said they want to benchmark. The UK based consultant had tendered for the new examination system but he was not awarded the tender, instead it was awarded to the local consultant who is struggling to implement the system,” said sources.

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