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.