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Pretoria - The Gauteng Department of Education on Tuesday clarified media reports that 22 independent schools, which receive a subsidy from the department, are being investigated by the South African Police Service.

The department on Tuesday said only 14 schools have been referred to the SAPS as a result of the Marumofase George Fivaz forensic audit, which started in 2011.

“We conducted a rapid assessment into the 205 independent schools that receive a subsidy from us in October 2011,” said the department’s Charles Phahlane.

He said of the 205 schools, 36 schools were identified as needing further attention. A total of 112 schools were found to be compliant and had the right financial management systems in place. These schools received their subsidies in December 2011.

Phahlane said 57 schools were found to have minor issues that could be addressed with the implementation of policy or controls.

These schools, he said, were given the opportunity to present improvement plans and were subsequently paid their subsidies in December 2011.

Thirty-six schools were then referred to Fivaz for a full forensic audit. Fivaz reported in April 2012 that he had completed auditing 14 of the schools.

The auditing report found that on the 14 schools, five had sufficient financial management and controls in place and subsequently received their subsidies in April 2012.

“Seven schools were found to have serious instances of financial mismanagement. The findings from this investigation suggest that at this stage these schools do not have the ability to manage their own finances,” said Phahlane.

He said the two Ekhukhanyeni Schools in Ramaphosa and Denver schools were deregistered as investigations revealed alleged serious fraud, corruption and non-compliance with the conditions for registration and subsidies in both.

In total, nine schools were referred to SAPS for further investigation in this phase of the investigation.

Of the remaining 22 schools, Fivaz reported in April 2012 that he still needed to do a further forensic investigation.

“Fivaz has now completed this forensic investigation and a further five schools were referred to SAPS. In total, there are 14 schools that have been referred to the SAPS as a result of the Fivaz forensic audit that started in 2011.”

According to Phahlane, the department has put in place a strategy to deal with organisational and policy gaps.

These include an inspectorate for independent schools using in-sourced expertise to provide an end-to-end service to audit the finances of subsidised independent schools, establish operational standards, and check for compliance through rigorous monitoring through announced and unannounced visits.

This will detect potential instances of fraud early on, the department hopes.

The department is also centralising the functions related to the regulation of independent schools at the head office level and districts. It will also introduce specialised capacity to ensure tighter monitoring of independent schools and draft revised regulations. – SAnews.gov.za