Education Ministry failed to distribute thousands of textbooks between 2017-2019

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The Education Ministry failed to provide thousands of textbooks to schools in need between January 2017 and December 2019.

A clear and concise audit to monitor the performance and expenditure of funds for the procurement and distribution of textbooks was conducted by the Audit Office.

Following the audit, it was found that although over $989 million worth of textbooks were purchased during 2017 and 2018, there was a significant shortage of textbooks at schools. This shortage was ongoing for several months and affected learners who needed these books.

“The Ministry spent millions to purchase textbooks, yet failed to supply 71% of the textbooks requested by the Regions. There was stock-out of core textbooks for long periods at the Book Distribution Unit. Seventeen schools had over 5,000 excess, unused textbooks stored, while many other schools had shortages of the same textbooks,” the audit report, tabled in the National Assembly on Monday, stated.

For 2017 and 2018, the ministry entered into ten contracts totaling $789 million for the supply of 979,037 textbooks. An examination of the purchase invoices and goods received showed 980,848 of the books were received by the Books Distribution Unit. Over 1,000 books were outstanding.

The reason was due to the lack of management of the contracts to ensure that the obligations were carried out in a timely manner. As part of the mismanagement, it was found that only 40 schools had textbook inventory ledgers to account for the books received.

It was recommended by the Audit Office that, “the Head of Budget Agency and the Procurement Officer ensure proper contract management for the procurement and prompt delivery of textbooks to avoid textbook shortages in schools.”

Former Education Minister, Nicolette Henry

The details of the audit explained that while many schools had inadequate textbooks to distribute to each learner, 17 schools had over 5,000 excess unused textbooks stored in cupboards and bookrooms. As a result, textbooks were not being used efficiently as intended by the Ministry.

Suddie, Soesdyke and New Amsterdam Primary schools had textbooks that were damaged by termites and rodents. Departments of Education in Regions 2, 6 and 7 had storage facilities but the facilities lacked the necessary shelving to keep the books safe. Meanwhile, in Region Four, the undistributed books were kept in a canter which was secured until the books were needed. Therefore damages could not be prevented.

Notably, some regions did not receive textbooks at all. “The book distribution did not meet the needs of Aurora, Three Miles, and Bartica Secondary for 2017 and 2018,” the report states.

Therefore some 3,000 books that were needed for English Language and Mathematics were never made available during that period. Also, some 23 primary schools did not have textbooks for core subjects for Grades 1, 2, and 4.

While many learners were not benefiting from the books, it was revealed that almost 800 text books were distributed to private individuals.  However, the ministry has said these books were used by employees who got the books on a loan and were approved for these Ministry employees.

And there was a significantly slow delivery of the textbooks with the delivery that should take seven days sometimes taking 40 days instead.

“The Department of Education of Region № 2 took more than 40 days instead of 7 to deliver textbooks to schools on the coast using vehicles and boats,”

“However, in Central Georgetown, delivery to schools took one day. The Ministry used its canter truck to transport the books to schools,” the report revealed.

Several recommendations were made to avoid the recurrence of mismanagement. Among them is that regional education officers and head teachers monitor the school and ensure that protocols are being followed to document and deliver the books.

Also, a Textbook Management Committee which was not in place at many schools to manage textbooks is to be remedied.

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