MASSIVE irregularities that characterised the recent award of textbook tenders to non indigenous companies yesterday shocked members of Parliament.
The MPs were informed that the resultant mistakes would take more than five years to rectify if the textbooks were printed.
The Committee on Education, Science and Technology learnt that some publishers had Ministry of Education staff on their writing teams contrary to regulations.
UPND Siavonga Member of Parliament Kennedy Hamadulu, who is the committee chairman, has promised the publishers to deal with the Ministry of Education when they appear before them on Friday next week.
The committee learnt that some submitted copies of the manuscripts disappeared while under evaluation which renders publishers to lose on time and quality of the intended materials due to compromised security while work gets published by others.
“The idea of Curriculum Development Centre demanding that the identity of the author and the publisher to be inscribed on the manuscripts submitted for evaluation was contrary to their own guidelines (vii) on page 7 of the evaluation criteria which states that the identity of the author and publishers are withheld from evaluators,” publishers submitted.
Maiden Publishing House Managing Director Christine Kasonde told the Committee that there was need for higher authorities to urgently intervene in the procurement process in the Ministry of Education.
The publishers charged that the selection of the evaluators of textbooks in the Ministry of Education was flawed as some of the assessors were engaged by publishers.
The Committee also heard that the evaluation criterion was not professional because it was not defined by an independent body.
This was when the indigenous book publishers appeared before the committee and complained that their relationship with the Ministry of Education had turned soured.
The publishers complained that the office of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of General Education was now a no go area.
They said it was unfair for the ministry to be awarding foreign publishers tenders as opposed to empowering the indigenous publishers.
“The relationship with Ministry of General Education was very good until the introduction of tenders. This has now soured the relationship for being perceived as whistle blowers.
“Textbook evaluation is not transparent and there is need for a clear book approval system. Only one system should be used not tenders versus non tender evaluation,” Ms Kasonde said.
Ms Kasonde said tenders were a major setback for local publishers.
“Those who lose the tender lose business for between five to ten years and the market gets blocked as schools buy courses. Following years if they have little funds they buy top ups. The shelf life for a book is 3 years,” she said. Ms Kasonde proposed that in going forward the evaluation system needed to be transparent and managed by an independent body whose tenure should not exceed five years.
“The body should be outside Curriculum Development Centre,” she said. And Mwajionera Book Publishers Limited (MPL) director Alice Mkandawire told the committee that it had several experiences were books had scored well above 85 per cent but not approved despite 85 per cent being the score marks stipulated in the evaluation criteria.
Ms Nkandawire said change from decentralized to centralized procurement was not communicated or discussed with the stakeholders.