Sports school shake-up

There are fears the Western Cape Sport School could ditch all but four of its sports codes, after R22 million was allegedly stolen from the school.

Two school governing body officials say a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) official told them an audit showed the money was stolen.

The WCED, however, denies this, but it refused to let Northern News have a look at the school’s financial records.

Opened in 2007, the school offers education in aquatics, athletics, basketball, cricket, football, gymnastics, netball, table tennis, volleyball, rugby and golf.

Northern News’ source said the school, which has 353 registered pupils, is in a crisis and could stop offering all the other codes, with the exception of athletics, cricket, volleyball and basketball.

School governing body (SGB) chairman James Ketelo, claims the school has lost R22 million, which he says is unaccounted for and which will cause the school to cut sports codes.

Mr Ketelo said the WCED had not formally notified the SGB about problems at the school, but he claimed an official from the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport had told coaches and pupils recently that they might be out of jobs and a school next year. But the official had said nothing to the school’s management or the SGB.

Mr Ketelo said schools’ financials were shrouded in “secrecy” and it was hard to trace the missing millions or explain why the the school was scaling down.

“Something is happening here, and the department is not telling us what it is.”

He fears the school’s problems could lead to it being privatised. That, he claimed, “would explain what looks like sabotage at the moment” by the WCED and the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

The school’s unfinished pool was another example of funds being misused, Mr Ketelo said. Some R3 million had been spent on the pool five years ago, but construction had stalled since 2014.

SGB secretary Jerry Kapel, said a WCED official had told the governing body there were no grounds to file any charges, even though an audit had shown that R22m had been “stolen” from the school.

Mr Kapel said the SGB had been stonewalled by the three departments – the WCED, Cultural Affairs and Sport and Public Works and Transport – when they had asked for more information on the school’s finances.

Byron La Hoe, spokesman for the provincial Department of Public Works and Transport, confirmed that the incomplete pool had cost the department R3.5m. A new contractor would be appointed soon after a new tender was advertised.

WCED spokeswoman Millicent Merton said the department wasn’t aware of any missing millions “because the school had never had so much money anyway”.

She said the sporting codes offered by the school were still being discussed with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, which, she said, had indicated that certain codes would be phased out as part of the roll-out of the Focus Schools programme of Sport and Recreation SA. However she challenged the SGB ‘s claim that pupils would find themselves out in the cold, saying all pupils would be supported until they finished Grade 12.

Mr Kapel who claims to be one of those who saw the audit, said they decided against keeping a copy “because of the sensitivity of the matter”. “We didn’t want it to end up in the wrong hands,” he said.

Ms Merton said the school’s budget for this financial year was R7 270 929. She denied the school had lost R22m, but when Northern News asked her to provide copies of the school’s financial records, she said, “This information is not available to the public”. Tania Colyn, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport spokeswoman, said she couldn’t answer questions about the school’s finances because the WCED was responsible for them. However the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport had nevertheless funded the school to the tune of R 4 676 199 in the 2015/16 financial year.

The WCED said the school fees were R4 400 a year and R5 640 extra for those staying the hostel.