Saturday, September 19, 2020

Counting the cost of education corruption

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development under former Minister, Jacob Nkate, spent an average P80 000 a year to enroll a single Motswana student in a tertiary institution which is two times more than the P40 000 that the ministry spends under Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

This emerged in a Sunday Standard investigation on the cost of corruption and inefficiency at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development. The investigations revealed that last year alone, at least 8000 Batswana students lost out on government sponsorship to enroll in tertiary institutions because the money was fritted away in corruption and inefficiency.

In 2009, the then minister, Jacob Nkate, budgeted about P650 million for tertiary education students’ bursaries and the money went around only 8000 students. Under Minister Venson Moitoi’s this would have paid for 16 000 Batswana students to enroll in tertiary institutions.

Although government had earlier announced that it did not have money to sponsor new students for the 2010 academic year, Sunday Standard can reveal that Minister Venson-Moitoi’s administration has been able to raise about P380 million which will pay for the enrolment of 10 000 Batswana students in tertiary institutions.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Ruth Maphorisa, has confirmed that they have raised about P380 million from within their vote to sponsor 10 000 students to enroll in tertiary institutions.

Maphorisa also confirmed that last year the ministry spent more than P 600 million to sponsor 8000 students to enroll in tertiary education.

This was also confirmed by Minister Venson Moitoi. The pair, however, explained that the average cost of sponsoring students for tertiary education was lower because the ministry was now sponsoring most students to study in government tertiary institutions and cutting down on enrolling students to study in private institutions and abroad.

The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is investigating reports that ministry officials received bribes from private tertiary institutions to place student with them. As a result, most private tertiary institutions enrolled more students than their carrying capacity while government tertiary institutions enrolment was much lower than their capacity.

Minister Moitoi-Venson confirmed that the Francistown polytechnic had an enrolment of 300 students while it had a capacity to enroll 1000 students. This is the picture that emerges with most government tertiary institutions. The DCEC is also investigating reports that ministry officials also received bribes to place unqualified students with private tertiary institutions outside Botswana.

Venson-Moitoi told Sunday Standard earlier this year that, “I am not yet sure on the amount of money involved in the fraud; let us just wait for the DCEC to complete its investigations, and then I will be in a better position to tell you the exact amount involved.” A number of officials were suspended pending investigations. Their suspensions have since been lifted, but investigations are still ongoing.

The officials’ suspensions have since been lifted after it emerged that the ministry’s rot ran much deeper and DCEC investigations will take longer than initially anticipated.
The number of students who have missed out on government sponsorships as a result of the sleaze is believed to be running into tens of thousands.

Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that despite the high expenditure by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development on private tertiary institutions, government was not rewarded with a commensurate improvement in the quality of education. Instead, most private tertiary institutions sacrificed quality of education to increase the bottom line.

At least two private tertiary institutions are being investigated by the DCEC for altering marks of students who had failed so that government could continue sponsoring them. The third private institution is being investigated after it allegedly offered students a training programme it had not agreed on with government.

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