The Competition Commission has published a new circular for schools and parents on the procurement guidelines for school uniforms in 2021.
The commission said that the circular is aimed at curbing anti-competitive procurement practices at schools. This has been a hot topic at schools historically, with parents forced to purchase uniforms from only a few select suppliers.
However, the commission said that parents and students should also take note of the circular in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the era of Covid-19, the commission’s scope has expanded to other learning-related goods and services which schools require learners to purchase, including facemasks, hand sanitizers, technological gadgets for e-learning purposes and other items,” it said.
“It is important that schools understand that the same principles that are set out to ensure pro-competitive procurement applies equally to the procurement of all other learning-related goods such as textbooks, stationery etc.”
The guidelines include the following:
- Schools must not compel parents to purchase new/additional school uniform items for the purposes of clothes-rotation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, schools should consider alternative interventions including permitting the wearing of civilian clothing by learners, on some days;
- School uniform should be as generic as possible such that it is obtainable from more than one supplier;
- Exclusivity should be limited to items that the schools regards as necessary to obtain from pre-selected suppliers;
- Schools should follow a competitive bidding process when appointing suppliers for school uniform and learning-related items;
- Supplier agreements should be of limited duration and not for excessively long periods.
The commission has further clarified that schools should not force parents to procure branded masks or to purchase sanitisers from particular vendors.
“In the instance where there is non-compliance with the Competition Act and the School Uniformguidelines, the commission will take appropriate action in terms of its enabling statutes, particularly as bringing down the cost of learning-related items remains the priority,” it said.