Providers to school food programme unpaid
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.