The Public Service Accountability Monitor produced an expenditure tracking report, interrogating expenditure in programme five of early childhood development of the Eastern Cape department of education from the 2016-17 financial year to the 2017-18 financial year.

The report also tracked 201718 spending and performance of the early childhood development (ECD) grant of the department of social development.

The department of basic education (DBE) and department of social development (DSD) continues to work together in expanding ECD.

ECD prepares children for school and is, therefore, important for the learning and development of children.

In December 2015, cabinet approved the ECD policy, with the intention to finalise implementation of the policy by March 2018.

Key to the findings of the tracking report is the underspending in programme 5 of the Eastern Cape department of education (ECDoE) by 23%, which is R130.49m of R580.48m, spending R449.98m in 2016-17; and 16%, which is R92.80m of R588.46m, spending R495.65m in 2017-18. While the underspending decreased from 23% in 2016-17 to 16% in 2017-18, it is not good for ensuring quality ECD access for children – especially, considering the poor performance related to the training of ECD practitioners.

According to the ECDoE 2017-18 annual report, the main reasons for this underspending relate to the appointment of professionally qualified practitioners into mainstream schooling.

The training of ECD practitioners started late in the 2017-18 financial year and, as a result, payments for bursaries could not be made.

The department failed to meet its own target of 959 grade R practitioners with NQF level 6 and above qualification, and only managed to achieve 878.

This means the department underperformed by 81 because of practitioners who did not successfully complete all the modules for a diploma in grade R teaching, including students who dropped out of the course.

Similar to the underspending for ECD by the ECDoE between the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years, in 2017-18 the Eastern Cape department of social development (ECDSD), only spent 48.6% (R27.2m) of R56.4m of the ECD grant, because of late appointment of service providers.

This means service providers for upgrading and maintaining ECD centres were not appointed on time. As a result, the ECDSD failed to meet all its targets for ECD maintenance.

For example, through the maintenance component of the ECD grant, the ECDSD targeted 96 ECD centres for upgrading, but none benefited.

While R10.2m was allocated for the maintenance of these centres, the ECDSD failed to spend this money. The failure to spend money and meet targets relate to delays internally because of capacity constraints for administering the maintenance component. The underspending and poor performance constitutes an affront to equitable access to quality ECD in SA.

The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) recommendations are:

● The ECDoE should make plans to provide training to grade R practitioners, ensuring children are taught by qualified educators.

● The provincial treasuries should provide financial management support to departments in order to better manage resources, as outlined in section 18(2) (e) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) 1 of 1999, that a provincial treasury “may assist provincial departments and provincial public entities in building their capacity for efficient, effective and transparent financial management”.

● The internal CFO and strategic planning of the ECDSD should support the department in order to improve performance in the ECD grant implementation in the short- to medium-term.

Siyabulela Fobosi is an education researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor, Rhodes University and can be contacted at