Over two years after government promised to construct 500 laboratories and libraries in some selected community day secondary schools (CDSSs) in five years, it has transpired that no single laboratory or library has been constructed this far.
The construction of 100 laboratories and libraries, which is one of the education sector reform areas, was to start in the 2015/16 financial year and the plan was included in the budget of that fiscal year.
But, according to some sources, the successful contractors were told in January 2016 that government had discontinued the construction of 100 libraries and laboratories and 32 structures for each category would be built instead.
“Successful bidders were informed in the notification of award contract letters dated 12th April 2016. The expectation was that the contractors would be paid their 20 percent advance before the year that ended in June 2016 but that never happened. Surprisingly, the contracts were not included in the 2016/17 budget and it was not possible to pay contractors advances from the budget,” the source said.
The project was, however, considered in the mid-year budget review in February 2017 and the construction period was agreed to be six months from around May this year.
In May, the ministry wrote contractors instructing them to start works promptly but that was without any advance working capital funding.
“Contractors went to sites after receiving the warning letter but they could not do anything in the absence of working capital,” the source said.
Civil Society Education Coalition Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, said by demonstrating irresponsibility, government is actually institutionalising discrimination against CDSSs and the stakeholders they support.
“Thus, this imbalance has the potential to perpetuate poverty as well as incapacitate their full potential. Additionally, the development begs us to question whether resources allocated in the national budget in 2016 and 2017 were really meant for construction of laboratories and libraries. It, therefore, places the highest degree of moral obligation for government to account to the nation as to the lack of progress on the matter,” Kondowe said.
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology spokesperson Lindiwe Chide said the project was supposed to start in the 2016/17 financial year but it was not funded by Treasury due to other demands which the Treasury can explain.
“We have started receiving funding for the project in the 2017/18 budget and works have commenced. For the current year, we will start with 33 sites out of the 100 (not 500) planned in the project cycle and we will continue in phases until all 100 are done,” Chide said.
She said the project has a budget of K1 billion in the 2017/18 budget and as of end-August, K171 million had been used to pay advance payments to contractors.