As matrics brace for 2021 results, task team releases final report into 2020 leaked exam papers scandal

11 January 2022 - 17:49
By Prega Govender
The maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 were leaked to some pupils via WhatsApp before they could write the two exams in 2020. File image
Image: SAMORN TARAPAN/ The maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 were leaked to some pupils via WhatsApp before they could write the two exams in 2020. File image

With days to go before the release of the 2021 matric results, an investigation launched into the leaked 2020 question papers has found the reluctance of implicated pupils to surrender their cellphones compromised the investigation.

This is what is contained in the final report by the national investigating task team (NITT), which the basic education department handed over for tabling in the National Assembly on Monday.

The chair of NITT, Hugh Amoore, said in the report a forensic investigation that analysed data obtained from 21 cellphones “provided detailed confirmatory evidence of the extent (limited to two sub-questions) and timing (at 10.34pm on the night before the exam) of the leaks to the TDP WhatsApp support group”.

“It confirmed the identity of the pupil (“A”) who distributed these two sub-questions to the TDP WhatsApp support group. This identity has been known since early December 2020. The forensic investigation has identified the make of cellphone used by ‘A’,” the report reads.

According to the report, “A” surrendered a phone but not the phone he had used.

“We have made recommendations to the department of basic education in regard to ‘A’,” the report states.

The maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2 were leaked to some pupils via WhatsApp before they could write the two exams in 2020.

The report stated that in hearings in another province, two groups of pupils who were not part of the TDP group admitted having had prior access to the maths paper 2 and physical science paper 2.

“We understand they co-operated with the investigators and showed remorse. It is not the role of the NITT to consider the appropriateness of the sanctions recommended in these or other cases, but what is of importance to us is that one of these candidates identified ‘B’ as the source of the question papers.”

Amoore said the information had been passed over to the Hawks.

“‘B’ appears to have been an intermediary, and it will be important for the Hawks to establish how and from who ‘B’ obtained the question paper and to who ‘B’ distributed it (and possibly other question papers). We have made recommendations in this regard.”

The report stated that all the evidence showed the leaks were not widespread and the leaked questions or question papers reached candidates on the day or one day before the exams were to be written.

“It is a matter of concern to the NITT, as it is to the department and to Umalusi, that progress in following up the identified sources of the leaks by the Hawks seems to have been slow. There is evidence that a leak or leaks occurred at the government printer and at the printer contracted to print for the Gauteng department of education.

“We have made recommendations in this regard; these for the present must remain confidential so as not to prejudice the investigations by the Hawks and others that are essential if the culprits are to be brought to book.”

Amoore said the source of the leaks of the 2016 NSC [National Senior Certificate] exam papers has not yet been identified or brought to book despite the arrest at the time of the head of the New Era school and the fact that the Hawks were at the time able to take possession of the leaked question papers printed by or for the Gauteng education department.

“In that case, as with the present case, the case was escalated to the Hawks.”

He said the follow-up actions regarding implicated 2020 candidates require attention, adding: “An important reason for this is that the regulations for dealing with NSC irregularities do not help and are in urgent need of a revamp. We have made recommendations in this regard.”

The report stated that the department “has what we believe to be incontrovertible evidence that one or more 2020 NSC examination question papers leaked from the Government Printing Works (GPW)”.

“The evidence obtained from two sources — a pupil in the Eastern Cape who reported having received a leaked paper and a pupil  in Gauteng who reported having received a leaked question paper from someone in Mpumalanga — in both cases in the form of screen shots of question papers in the print office origination state, can only have come from the GPW.”

The report stated a second source of 2020 NSC examination question paper leaks has been identified as a person connected to the printer contracted by the Gauteng education department.

Themba Daniel Shikwambana, 31, who was employed at a Johannesburg-based company contracted by the department of basic education to print the 2020 matric exam papers, was arrested on November 30 2020. He was granted bail of R1,000.

A nurse, Thobile Sweetbetter Duze, was arrested in Port Shepstone in KwaZulu-Natal on June 10  2021, and charged with theft. She was released on bail of R3,000 and will make another appearance in the Johannesburg regional court on January 17.

Recommendations in the report made to the department include:

  • requiring the GPW to satisfy the department that any future exam paper printing will be secure;
  • the department, in collaboration with the provincial education departments that have exam papers printed by the GPW, must ensure full oversight of all printing assignments; and
  • where a third-party printer is contracted to print question papers by a provincial education department, it must ensure adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure for printing, packaging, distribution and storage.