LOGISTICS company EduSolutions fears that Limpopo's textbook crisis will be repeated next year if the government does not start its procurement soon.

The company, which has received stinging criticism in the wake of the crisis that resulted in some Limpopo pupils receiving their textbooks six months after the start of the school year, has launched a charm offensive.

It said yesterday it was ready and able to deliver textbooks in time for the new school year.

EduSolutions spokesman Themba Ndhlovu said at a briefing that if the Department of Basic Education in Pretoria had not terminated the company's R320m contract with the Limpopo education department, the books would have been delivered on time.

The contract was cancelled because of a legal opinion given to the national department that the tender process was "neither fair, equitable, transparent, competitive nor cost-effective".

Mr Ndhlovu said EduSolutions was preparing a civil claim to recoup the losses it had suffered after it failed in the North Gauteng High Court last month to have the contract reinstated.

The company has been accused of benefiting from its political connections, which allegedly include President Jacob Zuma and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

But Mr Ndhlovu maintained that the company had won the R320m textbook contract after a fair process, despite the legal opinion and a report by Anis Karodia, the former head of the department's intervention team in Limpopo, which found otherwise.

"We have a track record of 10 years and we know how the system works. We have developed both the administrative competence and financial competence to compete against others and win these contracts," he said.

"Last year we delivered the (books) to Limpopo and achieved a 99% success rate. There were no issues of nondelivery."

Mr Ndhlovu said the national and Limpopo departments of education were responsible for the crisis as they had not ordered the proper books, nor ensured the logistics for delivery were in place. It was now time to start preparing for next year to avoid a repeat of the problem.

"The Limpopo education department is running out of time to get systems in place for next year's textbook delivery. EduSolutions is ready to return to our core business and deliver . textbooks for next year."

EduSolutions director Mateli Mpuntsha denied the company had benefited from political connections and said the only relationship it had with Mr Zuma was CEO Shaun Battleman's commitment to the president's education trust.

"We have many corporate social investment initiatives and the trust is only one of them," he said.

Mr Mpuntsha said it was "only natural" that the company would employ former senior government officials as their intimate knowledge of government processes enabled an appropriate service.

Mr Ndhlovu said the company was willing to co-operate with any probe of its affairs and had written to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela informing her of this.

According to media reports yesterday, the Hawks were investigating an EduSolutions contract for the supply of learner support materials, including home theatre systems and toys for grade R pupils.

Mr Ndhlovu denied there was anything irregular in the tender.

neethlingt@bdfm.co.za