Providers to school food pro­gramme un­paid

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS - SIPHELELE BUTHELEZI

THOU­SANDS of pupils from im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties rely on the daily meal pro­vided at their re­spec­tive schools, through a pro­gramme run by the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

For some it was their only form of sus­te­nance.

But their plight could worsen if the de­part­ment fails to pay con­trac­tors tasked with pro­vid­ing the ser­vice. There has been wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion from ser­vice providers who have been re­cently signed up for its Na­tional School Nu­tri­tion Pro­gramme (NSNP).

Some con­trac­tors claimed be­cause they had not been paid since July, it had be­come a strug­gle to make ends meet and hon­our their obli­ga­tion to the chil­dren.

The de­part­ment con­ceded its pay­ments to con­trac­tors had been de­layed be­cause of its fi­nan­cial con­straints.

The de­part­ment’s feed­ing pro­gramme, in oper­a­tion for 15 years, wss said to be worth R1.5 bil­lion an­nu­ally, and 2.2 mil­lion chil­dren across the 5 250 KZN schools are fed.

A Dur­ban con­trac­tor, who asked not to be named, fear­ing reprisal, said he had run out of funds. “I sub­mit in­voices ev­ery month but I am not re­ceiv­ing any pay­ment from the de­part­ment, and they give no ex­pla­na­tion.

“Like me, many other sup­pli­ers have ap­proached the de­part­ment about this but we get no joy,” said the con­trac­tor.

“I have spent over R120 000 in the past three months. I don’t have any more money to buy food for the schools.

“I’m re­quired to pro­vide veg­etable and dairy prod­ucts on a weekly ba­sis, but how do I con­tinue do­ing that?”

The source said he sup­plied food to three schools, which is a col­lec­tive of about 1 300 pupils. He had spo­ken to the prin­ci­pals about chal­lenges hon­our­ing his ser­vice.

“I ap­plied for this pro­gramme not only for the busi­ness but to make a dif­fer­ence. I know what’s it like at­tend­ing school with­out food. I am dis­ap­pointed at how I’m be­ing treated by the de­part­ment. They are con­tribut­ing to me be­com­ing bank­rupt in­stead of em­pow­er­ing small busi­nesses.”

De­part­ment spokesper­son Kwazi Mthethwa did not deny that sup­pli­ers had not been paid when asked by the Sun­day Tri­bune.

He em­pha­sised that the de­part­ment pre­ferred to deal with ser­vice providers di­rectly.

“I have touched based with rel­e­vant of­fi­cials in the de­part­ment. They have told me they are fi­nal­is­ing pa­per­work. Ser­vice providers must li­aise with their district of­fices and not the me­dia.”

Pupils re­ceiv­ing meals cour­tesy of the Na­tional School Nu­tri­tion Pro­gramme.

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