ALL provinces have reported the delivery of more than 96% of textbooks and stationery to schools, with Limpopo reporting 99% delivery, Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee heard on Tuesday.

However, these figures were disputed by most MPs, who said the picture was different on the ground, especially in Limpopo. The Department of Basic Education has been under pressure to deliver textbooks since the Limpopo textbook scandal broke last year, when it was discovered thousands of textbooks had not been delivered.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said an independent audit body was needed to probe the state of delivery of textbooks to schools in Limpopo. The department admitted last week that there were still 42,000 books undelivered in Limpopo.

The department told MPs on Tuesday that, on average, 99% of textbooks had been delivered to schools nationally. It was committed to ensure that all schools received their full consignment of textbooks.

"Schools have been requested, via a circular, to declare any further shortages. This will be verified against the evidence of deliveries made and remediated where necessary. Principals will be held accountable for submitting incorrect information," said Allan Subban, the department’s director of enhancement of programmes and evaluation of school performance.

He told MPs that the challenges faced in the delivery of textbooks included "adverse weather", which had destroyed about 20 bridges in Limpopo, making some schools inaccessible by road.

"Schools have been collecting (figures of) shortages on a daily basis. Each school is required to complete, stamp and sign forms to specify a list of titles and quantities per grade and subject of textbooks collected per school. The forms are collected on a daily basis from each district to reconcile the total textbook provisioning for each school ... a final analysis will be (made on) March 8 for final close-out," Mr Subban said.

A total of 42,226 textbooks were still outstanding, with the Waterberg district the worst affected, with a shortfall of 15,317 books, he said.

African National Congress MP Zondi Makhubele questioned the systems used to verify if most schools in Limpopo had received textbooks. "We need a reliable system. To what extent can the system be trusted ... if you say 98% delivery, to what extent should we trust the figure?"

Azanian People’s Organisation MP Jacob Dikobo said that during a visit to Limpopo recently, MPs had seen a "different story". "Learners share textbooks ... the reports we get are different ... we should be worried when it seems there is a deliberate misleading of Parliament," he said.

DA MP Annette Lovemore said there was consensus in the House that the figures provided by the department were "difficult to trust".