Tender Irregularities ActionSA has called on the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Education, Ms Mbali Frazer, to be transparent about the awarding of a multi-million Rand National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) tender to a single individual, which has resulted in approximately 5400 schools in the province being without food due to tender irregularities.
The tender was awarded to a single individual, forcing learners to starve on their first day back to school after the Easter holidays. Tenders are often used as ‘get rich quick’ schemes and are often awarded to certain individuals through corruption and irregularities.
ActionSA has called on the MEC for Education to reveal how the tender was awarded to the individual in question and to be transparent about the matter. If the matter is not resolved by the end of this month, ActionSA will write to the Public Protector and request a full investigation into the matter.
This is not the first time that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has come under fire for its handling of the National School Nutrition Programme. The department has been criticised for failing to pay food nutrition scheme contractors on time, with some contractors waiting as long as five months for payments. The department still expected them to continue providing food to children at school despite non-payment.
Education committee chairwoman, Linda Hlongwa, said they were “embarrassed” and tired of defending the department. She said contractors should be paid within 30 days. “Why give people jobs and not pay them? Some people have lost everything, some have their cars and are now in debt (because of the department) for providing a service that they are not being paid for in time,” she said.
The slow payment of contractors has affected people’s lives, with some contractors losing their wives as a result of them failing to secure payment from the department, as a result of them failing to put food on the table. “Children are going to bed hungry,” said ANC MPL Jomo Sibiya.
Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni apologised if the department came across as “arrogant” and said the nutrition scheme was aimed at helping not only pupils, but also emerging small businesses. “Even the (Education) Minister (Angie Motshekga) receives complaints. We have been advised to stop this programme altogether and directly allocate money to the schools, but we are aware of the challenges that schools face in managing their own budgets and ensuring that funds are used for their intended purposes.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education must take immediate action to address the irregularities in the National School Nutrition Programme tender and ensure that contractors are paid on time. The department must also be held accountable for its handling of the programme and its impact on the lives of learners and contractors. It is unacceptable that children are going to bed hungry and that contractors are losing their livelihoods due to the department’s incompetence and corruption.
The government must prioritize the well-being of its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, and take swift action to address these issues. ActionSA and other civil society organizations will continue to monitor the situation and hold the government accountable for its actions.