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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
7 March 2007
NATIONAL SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMME: BRIEFINGS BY NATIONAL AND EASTERN CAPE DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION
Chairperson: Mr B J Tolo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Presentation on the Status report on the National School Nutrition Programme
Presentation by the Department of Education of the Eastern Cape Province on the School Nutrition Programme
Audio recording of the meeting
The National Department of Education delivered a briefing on the status of the National School Nutrition Programme, which included a summary of how each province was doing in respect of numbers of schools fed, numbers of school gardens, and the challenges for each. The general challenges included lack of land and delays in deliveries, as well as lack of technical knowledge, and a lack of permanent supervisory staff. The proposed interventions were a national monitoring, evaluation and support unit in this area, increasing the provincial capacity to monitor the programme, and a development plan to expand the programmes.
A specific briefing was made in respect of the Eastern Cape. There the challenges had included suspension of senior officials and the termination of the contracts of all suppliers that resulted in the interruption of feeding of the school pupils in that province. An interim team was appointed and an audit was done. Support was given to the appointed Acting Director in finalisation of the 2007/8 business plan and the monthly monitoring at the district level would be strengthened.
The forensic investigation that was initiated by the Office of the Premier in August of 2006 was outlined, which indicated flaws in the procurement processes, incorrect administration, fraudulent payments and conflicts of interest. The contracts and the officials were suspended. A new programme commenced on 1 February. The corrective mechanisms were outlined.
Questions by members addressed the numbers of schools shown on the schemes, as there appeared to be a discrepancy between National and Eastern Cape figures. This was to be addressed in writing. The issue of children working in the gardens was raised. Other queries related to the invoices, why the programme extended only in some schools to Grade 4, and Grade 7 in others, the quality of the food provided, whether there was choice of menus, the monitoring process, the process followed with the suspended officials, and the business plans for the next year.
Status Report on the National School Nutrition Programme by Department of Education (DOE)
Ms Gugu Ndebele, Deputy Director General, Department of Education presented an overview of each province with regard to the allocated budget and actual spending on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). The total numbers of learners reached in each province from Grade R to Grade seven were shown. The number of food gardens developed in each province over the last year was shown for each province.
The key achievements for the 2005/6 year were discussed with regard to expansion of feeding poorer learners, monitoring of programmes by interns, harvesting of the food gardens, food safety workshops and community participation in various provinces.
The challenges faced by each province with regard to the food gardens and the nutrition programme were outlined. The main reasons common to most provinces were lack of land and delays in deliveries, as well as lack of technical knowledge, and a lack of permanent supervisory staff.
In the Eastern Cape the challenges had included suspension of senior officials and the termination of the contracts of all suppliers which resulted in the interruption of feeding of the school pupils in that province. The finalisation of the 2007/8 business plan before the end of the current financial year was also cited as a challenge.
The interventions that were followed on a provincial level were outlined. An interim team was appointed and an audit was done. On a national level support was given to the appointed Acting Director in finalisation of the 2007/8 business plan and the monthly monitoring at the district level would be strengthened.
The challenges faced by all Provinces generally with regard to the NSNP were mentioned including the human resource challenge, the instability in the Eastern Cape Province, the expanding provision needed for secondary schools, markets for the products, equipment and infrastructure, lack of land and demarcations. The proposed interventions to cope with the challenges were a national monitoring, evaluation and support unit in this area, increasing the provincial capacity to monitor the NSNP, and a development plan to expand the provision with the fiscal commission and treasury departments.
National Schools Nutrition Programme Briefing by the Provincial Department of Education of the Eastern Cape Province
Mr Tembani Mtyida, Director, Department of Education, Eastern Cape discussed the forensic investigation that was initiated by the Office of the Premier in August of 2006. The outcome of the investigation revealed that there were flaws in the procurement processes, feeding was not administered correctly and no claims were forthcoming, payments were made to service providers who had not rendered a service as such and conflicts of interest from officials within the department and other departments were identified. The investigation also revealed that there were internal control weaknesses in the administrative processes in the Department, especially including the School Nutrition Programme.
The recommendations from the investigation had included the immediate cancellation of all Small and Medium Micro Enterprise (SMME) contracts including the secondary cooperatives. All management officials of the SNP programme were suspended. This resulted in the delay of feeding to the schools but a new tender was awarded on 28 January 2007, and feeding again commenced on 1 February 2007.
The factors contributing to the under-expenditure as at 31 December 2006 were discussed. All payments to the existing service providers were stopped, and full reconciliation of accounts was being performed.
The current corrective mechanisms were discussed. These included changing the management of the project and outsourcing reconciliations to ensure payments were made for services delivered. Active participation by school governing bodies was sought and a more reliable reporting chain on numbers and types of meals was created. An evaluation was conducted in every district annually, with assistance in analysing the data received. The tender requirements for supplies for the next contract were being prepared currently. The target date for these tenders would be April and May 2007. which would allow for ample time for evaluation in the process.
Mr Mtyida concluded that the operations of the SNP had been improving and monitoring mechanisms hade been put in place. Feeding the learners was confirmed as the main priority for the suppliers, which would be enforced in the Service Level Agreements.
The National and Eastern Cape DOE were questioned concurrently
Mr M Sulliman (ANC)[Northern Cape] enquired as to why 126 schools were no longer on the feeding scheme, as he noted that the figures in the Eastern Cape and National DOE reports differed. He also queried as to whether it was right that learners should be expected to work in the gardens.
Ms G Ndebele replied that part of the problem was to assess whether there were now enough service providers to reach all the learners in the schools. She stated that the learners assisting in the food gardens was not child labour. Although some concern had been expressed around that issue, it was an important life skill for the learners to access. Partnerships were being developed between the Provinces and the National DOE with regard to the provision of water and land for the food gardens at the schools.
Mr M Thetjeng (DA)[Limpopo Province] asked for clarification from the National DOE with regard to the invoices that were submitted, and why the officials had not processed them accordingly. He also addressed the employment issue and enquired as to why there had been a high turnover in staff and why there had been no permanent staff employed.
Mr Duncan Hindle, Director General, National DOE stated that the officials did not adequately process the invoices and that the suppliers were not giving detailed accounts of their services provided. The supporting documents that the DOE required were supplied at a later date and this delayed payment. The provincial SNP was now supported by officials from National level assisting the provinces in the efficient running of the SNP.
Ms A Qikani (UDM)[Eastern Cape] queried as to why only Grades R to Grade 4 learners in the Eastern Cape (EC) were involved in the NSNP. She also enquired whether the 56 tenders were adequate to meet the demand on the programme in the Eastern Cape and whether these suppliers were able to reach the schools that they were providing for.
Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC)[Gauteng] also queried why grades from four to seven were not included in its NSNP and what the new strategy would entail. In regard to food gardens she commented that the parents should be encouraged to take part and that the local government departments should be involved because of the lack of resources including land and water for the food gardens.
Mr D Hindle (Director General, National Department of Education) replied that investigations were being conducted around the introduction of the NSNP into high schools and as yet no decision had been made. The feeding scheme was targeted at schools that had been identified as “poor”. However he stated that because of the cost implications schools were targeted rather than individual learners.
Mr Thetjeng noted that in the National DOE report three provinces had the corresponding number of food gardens that were developed in the same time period.
Mr T Mtyida (Director of DOE, Eastern Cape) replied that it was a coincidence that the same number of gardens had been developed in the year. The new grades would be further added in the coming financial year. The error of acquiring one supplier for almost the entire province had been corrected and addressed within the EC Province.
He stated further that the interim tender had not made it possible for changes in the menu plan for the schools. However for the current tender, which would be effective three months into the current financial year, the menu would continue to fit the National guideline. This would be accommodated in the various schools in the EC according to resources that were available.
The Chairperson commented that some schools were being given biscuits instead of bread when the committee visited the EC in 2004 before the suspensions occurred..
Ms Neo Rakwena, Director National DOE said that the health requirements included certain foodstuffs and that menus ordered by the schools were conditioned to the resources available, as well as the cooking equipment and storage space available. In the new financial year the management team would endeavour to provide a combination of meals for the schools.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee’s understanding was that the schools did not have a choice in the menu that they received. The suppliers were simply informed what to deliver to each school.
Ms Rakwena replied that the schools did have a say in what menus they were given, but this would also depend on the resources available at the schools to provide for those meals.
The Chairperson commented that the National figures by the Department were at variance with the Eastern Cape figures with regard to schools fed. Over 100 schools were now not being fed since the suspension of the officials.
Mr Mtyida explained that the variance in numbers of schools related partly to other feeding programmes occurring and the fact that certain schools had closed down. There was a new business plan for the next financial period.
The Chairperson again asked for clarification in the numbers of the schools on the NSNP.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC)[Northern Cape] added that there was a clear indication that the number of schools differed by 126. He also said that he would like clarification on this point.
Mr Hindle replied that the differences in numbers on the two reports were because of the conditional grant that had been given and that the new business plan for the coming financial year had not yet been received. The Eastern Cape situation was urgent and the tenders needed to be awarded
Mr M Thetjeng (DA)[Limpopo] commented that monitoring and evaluation was needed and systems put into place that would assist the schools. Another query was that schools that were listed did not receive the food and unregistered schools did receive food, apparently through a lack of communication.
Mr Hindle said that the monitoring process of the feeding schemes occurred in two ways; firstly it would be monitored by the people at the schools and interns would then assess the information supplied by the province in this regard. All monitoring would also include reports.
Mr J Thlagale (UCDP)[North West] queried how the suspended officials were managed. The officials had been negligent and had to be dealt with.
Mr Mtyida stated that the suspended officials were still under investigation and that an audit and reconciliation was being done of all the suppliers.
Ms H Lamoela (DA)[Western Cape] asked if there were any politicians involved in the corruption along with the officials that were suspended. She suggested that yearly audits needed to be done on the feeding schemes so that corruption could identified and stamped out. In regard to the decrease of suppliers she wanted to know if there were any ‘ghost’ suppliers identified and if they were linked to the suppliers whose contracts were terminated.
Ms Lamoela said that the Eastern Cape DOE had deviated from the present business plan and she asked how this would affect the feeding scheme. The quality of food on the feeding scheme was also queried and she expressed a need to see the actual menu that was planned. Her last query was whether under or over feeding ever occurred at any of the schools.
Mr Hindle said that the menu for the NSNP had to follow National guidelines and schools were supplemented by the food gardens if the menu was less substantial. The Western Cape was a model to follow as there was a centralised area for a number of schools to prepare the food and then for it to be transported to the schools. Such a model would assist those schools with no area for food preparation.
Mr Mtyida said that over and under supply of food occurred when the supplier was unable to access the roads to get to the schools and they would then drop off a few days supply rather than arrive every day. This was unacceptable and would be avoided as much as possible. Under and over feeding was also affected at the beginning of each financial year.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC)[Gauteng] mentioned that the lack of food in secondary schools could be one of the causes of teenage pregnancy in poorer areas, as they would use their bodies to acquire money to buy food.
Ms A Qikani (UDM)[Eastern Cape] stated that not all supplier schools were identified by the government and could have been cut off by the National Department.
The Chairperson questioned how the conditional grant from the National Department of Education was allocated to the provinces for the NSNP and why some schools would receive food for three days when they had been granted money for food for every day. He suggested that the women who sell food at the gates of schools be asked to become involved in the schools feeding programmes.
The Chairperson further suggested the Northern Cape as an example of an independent scheme. He felt that centralisation could not work as the traveling distances could become cumbersome. He suggested that schools also take responsibility for the feeding schemes. He commented that the Committee was not opposed to the children receiving bread, but that hot meals would be more appropriate and healthy.
Mr M Thetjeng queried how the feeding scheme had been run in the EC. He asked about the amount that was spent on a child per day in the EC SNP. He queried the current payment procedure and processes that were occurring. He also enquired as to the schools that were supplied and those that were not supplied and if the investigations were including this aspect.
He also asked if any of the new suppliers had been involved in the scheme before the suspension of the officials.
Dr Hindle stated that the focus was on poorer schools and that not all primary schools were catered to in this regard. In each province where schools had gone over budget they have used their own finances to expand the programme.
In the EC it was thought that the districts had more capacity than the schools, but it turned out that the schools in fact had the capacity to manage the scheme. The concern would be the potential fraud in the decentralised system. Governing bodies of schools also liked to have some kind of control over the feeding schemes in the schools.
Ms N Rakwena added that there had been a research study done and recommendations were made as to the cost of a meal per child per day. The cost per child per day was between R1,00 and R1,45.
Mr T Mtyida stated that the systems still remained from the previous tender and varying menus would be introduced from May this year. Stoves and pots had been provided for. The payment and procurement processes went through the provincial offices, and with decentralisation the district office could abdicate their responsibilities.
He added that the investigation was ongoing with regard to the receiving and non-receiving of the food. Information regarding the new suppliers and the criteria used was unclear. No information on suppliers to be blacklisted had yet been passed on to the EC Department.
Mr Thetjeng enquired whether the investigative report was available for members.
Mr Hindle replied that it could be obtained from the relevant person involved in processing the report.
Ms Lamoela noted her concern that there were so few school gardens in the Western Cape when a vast portion of the province was agricultural.
The Chairperson said that the DOE would need to give a follow-up on the report that was given and on some of the questions remaining unanswered. He commented that the food intake of a child impacted the learning ability of that child and that was why the NSNP was so important. He also noted that the Committee was planning to visit the Eastern Cape in the near future.
The meeting was adjourned.
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