PPP/C school feeding programme in jeopardy
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.