Feed­ing scheme run­ning dry


AL­LE­GA­TIONS of fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment, can­celled con­tracts with food sup­pli­ers, dodgy ten­der deals, court bat­tles and a gen­eral fail­ure to care for the im­pov­er­ished has re­sulted in al­most half a mil­lion feed­ing scheme ben­e­fi­cia­ries go­ing hun­gry for months and pos­si­bly fac­ing a bleak Christ­mas 2018.

This comes as the provin­cial food bank pro­gramme re­mains sus­pended ow­ing to a myr­iad con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the run­ning of the feed­ing scheme.

In July, the De­part­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment an­nulled con­tracts with the feed­ing schemes – bring­ing food sup­plies for hun­dreds of thou­sands of ben­e­fi­cia­ries (most of them chil­dren) to a halt. Pre­vi­ously, an ex­pla­na­tion pro­vided by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials was that the five food banks re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing for Gaut­eng’s feed­ing schemes were al­legedly mis­man­ag­ing fund­ing by the state.

De­spite promis­ing tem­po­rary so­lu­tions for the ben­e­fi­cia­ries go­ing for­ward, noth­ing has been done to feed those re­liant on the pro­gramme while the al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety are in­ves­ti­gated.

A probe into the food bank pro­gramme was ini­ti­ated by Trea­sury a few months ago to look into the al­leged mis­man­age­ment of funds by five non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions (NPO). At the time, it was said that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port was ex­pected to be re­leased in De­cem­ber.

But ac­cord­ing to sources, the in­ves­ti­ga­tions were com­pleted quickly and the NPOS were re­in­stated in Septem­ber after no mis­man­age­ment was found. Re­in­state­ment meant that the or­gan­i­sa­tions were en­ti­tled to once again re­ceiv­ing gov­ern­ment fund­ing to pay sup­pli­ers for food for the early child­hood de­vel­op­ment (ECD) fa­cil­i­ties they dis­trib­ute meals to.

In Oc­to­ber, Health-e News spoke to Kiri­nox, an NPO sup­ply­ing food to an ECD cen­tre.

“We were get­ting food from Power Foods, and would then sup­ply the ECDS. But since this whole drama, we have not been get­ting any food and we’ve been un­able to sup­ply ECDS,” said an em­ployee who asked to re­main anony­mous.

Ac­cord­ing to the source, the NPOS are now fac­ing debt re­view as they have not re­ceived any money from the gov­ern­ment since July.

She said em­ploy­ees were no longer re­ceiv­ing salaries.

The suf­fer­ing NPOS claim that the dire sit­u­a­tion was caused by the ar­rival of new So­cial De­vel­op­ment head of de­part­ment Them­beni Mh­longo.

“Since her ar­rival ev­ery­thing has changed. She has ru­ined the food pro­gramme, she must go back to Mpumalanga,” said an anony­mous source.

Claims have been made that Mh­longo dis­rupted the food bank op­er­a­tions by stop­ping all pay­ments to them. She al­legedly ap­pointed new sup­pli­ers and then re­in­stated food banks in a move the NPOS all claim does not make any sense.

Re­spond­ing to the al­le­ga­tions, she said: “I dis­pute them… Nei­ther did my ar­rival have any­thing to do with the man­ner in which the de­part­ment is do­ing busi­ness.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mh­longo, her de­part­ment is sub­si­dis­ing ECDS at R15 per child per day.

“There­fore, all ECDS that are cur­rently funded by the de­part­ment should be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide meals,” she said.


Naledi Pan­dor

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