PPP/C school feed­ing pro­gramme in jeop­ardy

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The

coun­try-wide school feed­ing pro­gramme es­tab­lished by the PPP/C ad­min­is­tra­tion is be­ing se­ri­ously af­fected by cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment and in some ar­eas the Au­di­tor Gen­eral has been called in to probe pos­si­ble fraud.

The care­fully planned pro­gramme ben­e­fit­ting some 20,000 stu­dents in more than 150 schools, es­pe­cially in hin­ter­lands ar­eas, was in­tro­duced to pro­vide di­etary sup­ple­ments and keep stu­dents in schools and gen­er­ally to lift the stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion.. It was also in­tended to ben­e­fit farm­ers and oth­ers who opted to fit into the pro­gramme.

The al­most $ 2 bil­lion project is be­ing un­der­mined by those closely at­tached to it and if al­lowed to go unchecked the sit­u­a­tion could de­te­ri­o­rate could jeop­ar­dize the en­tire pro­gramme.

Me­dia re­ports point to many re­gions be­ing plagued with dis­crep­an­cies and abuse of the sys­tem. In one in­stance, one of­fi­cial on the Esse­quibo, has been pur­chas­ing sup­plies from her own shop at ex­tremely in­flated prices. In some cases the items paid for have not been de­liv­ered.

Se­nior of­fi­cials are said to be hand­ing out con­tracts to favourites, friends and fam­i­lies with no re­gard for pro­cure­ment sys­tems.

At Kata Sec­ondary, monies for the feed­ing pro­gramme were di­verted into other ar­eas.

In one sec­tion of the me­dia, in Re­gion 8, there were in­stances of over-pay­ment of salaries to staff and con­trac­tors. When ques­tioned by the Par­lia­men­tary Public Ac­counts Com­mit­tee, the Re­gional Ac­count­ing Of­fi­cer, Rafel Downes, an­gered mem­bers by his eva­sive an­swers. He was later sacked.

A Re­gion Eight of­fi­cial, Daniel Fraser, had ac­cused Downes of hi­jack­ing the pro­cure­ment sys­tem in the Re­gion. This year, al­most $1.6B had been bud­geted for the re­gion.

In one case, al­though Mah­dia, the cap­i­tal of Re­gion Eight, has sev­eral me­chanic shops, some­one was hired to do work on heavy duty equip­ment. One bull­dozer was left un­re­paired be­cause of a dis­pute over monies.

"There are many more cases like this. The con­tracts and projects are be­ing han­dled in a clan­des­tine man­ner. We see cases of con­trac­tors, some who are rel­a­tives of the of­fi­cials, be­ing hand­picked. And we are talk­ing about projects around here. We are not even sure about projects that are hap­pen­ing over the hill," Fraser had com­plained.

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