Wednesday, October 27, 2021

School textbook tender raises more questions than answers

A Pre-school study material tender that was floated in 2015 and was only awarded in 2017 has left some publishing houses with many unanswered questions. Some publishers believe the delay was due to anomalies in the assessment process, orchestrated by favoritism.

They decry the fact that the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation (CDE) seemingly floats syllabus but then does not follow it when making final selection of the material.

“From the look of things there were publishers whose material had been selected even before the bidding was made. There is evidence. The tender documents recommended that publishers produce Workbooks and Readers (latter refers to novels for toddlers). Surprisingly, the finally selected material excludes the readers. This is because the favorites for the tender did not submit the readers,” said one source. He wanted to be quoted anonymously for fear of being black listed in the future.   

The ‘favorite’ publishers, he said, won the tender although their books covered only one topic, instead of more than ten topics recommended by the tender documents. He then produced some lists of the material prescriptions.

“This one was produced by teachers, lecturers and pre-school education experts. Selections were made according to how the material scored,” he explained as he showed the recommendations. Seven publishers got some slots. The second prescription list showed that some materials previously recommended were removed and replaced by yet another one.

“In this prescription, produced by the Curriculum Department, a lot of material previously recommended by the prescription team has been removed by the Department which was not part of the prescribing team. Take a closer look at this and you will find that the predominant publisher here is this one. The material has few topics than recommended by the tender documents,” he said

The worried publisher said the way the way curriculum department handled the delicate material prescriptions was detrimental to the syllabus and the general children’s education. In response to The Telegraph questions, Ministry of Basic Education spokesperson Titi Nyadza admitted that they did receive queries pertaining to the preschool tender award.

“Tender PR 6/2/15 (ii) was awarded to four bidders. However, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) omitted the publication of one of the awarded Publishers. At the time of notification of the awarded bidders, it appeared as an “anomaly” to some of the bidders. Hence three Publishers enquired with the department regarding the award. The department adequately responded to the three publishers, and the same communiqu├® was copied to PPADB,” explained Nyadza.

She said the Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation did not change nor temper in any way with the decision of the awarding board. The process of book selection was watertight and the ITT requirement was followed to the letter. The process also ensured that the department gets value for money and books.

“This was adhered to, through books that qualified at technical stage through the quality of content and went on to compete at the final stage that is, cost evaluation. And all the books which were included in the Prescription List were subjected to the cost evaluation and analysis and the three least cost per subject were selected for prescription.”

She defined as ‘unfounded’, accusations that the department might have known the winners of the preschool tender even before it was floated; as “the book selection process was done according to the ITT requirement and it was adjudicated thoroughly by PPADB.”

Contacted for comment, PPADB spokesperson, Keemenao Jappie said the tender does not have monetary value as it was meant “to identify instructional material for pre-primary reading for inclusion in the prescription list. This is a framework contract that covers a period of the syllabus- normally five years. The actual cost is determined by orders placed over the period of the framework contract.”

A publisher however said the tender is in the region of P10m; depending on how the material would be distributed to schools throughout the country.

On what made his institution omit publication of one of the bidders, Jappie said they realized on the publication that one of the names was omitted during copying of the decision hence this was immediately corrected and published accordingly.

He denied any queries raised on the award of the tender.

“The only queries that were raised were concerns that the tender has taken too long to be concluded following the request by the Procuring Entity for extension of the validity period,” he said.

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