Several schools left out of feeding programme under APNU/AFC Administration

…programme requires community support – PS

The Public Accounts Committee on Monday addressed the fact that in 2017, several schools did not benefit from the school feeding programme that was rolled out under the Education Ministry.
PAC Member Dharamkumar Seeraj inquired about the difficulties in getting schools on board with this programme, having identified in the Auditor General’s report that 20 schools were not on board in 2018 as well.
Permanent Secretary Alfred King explained that the feeding programme for students entailed more than just resources, but community support and involvement as well. He pointed out that wherever it is happening, a kitchen area needs to be established for preparation.
“The model for the rollout of feeding programme at any school has to do with community involvement and community support. Wherever the school feeding programme is happening, the first thing that is required is establishing a kitchen area, which is an infrastructural kind of arrangement.”
He added, “There’s another requirement of training for the staff – a treasurer to manage the accounts and bookkeeping arrangement and do the recording of the distribution of meals as well. Based on the report that we got from the Head of the School Feeding Programme, during that period, they reached out to the schools but they weren’t able to establish the infrastructure needed to roll out the programme.”

Permanent Secretary Alfred King

Schools that did not benefit from the programme included 12 from Region One (Barima-Waini), two from Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), two from Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), four from Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) and 17 from Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo). According to the PS, it was more than establishing the required infrastructure.
He told the Committee, “I wouldn’t want us to say that the schools hadn’t the ability to establish the infrastructure to get the programme on. The feeding effort is a coordinated approach using the regional education officers, regional system as well as the Ministry’s supporting team.”
Under the former APNU/AFC Administration in 2017, State auditors who embarked on an investigation targeting the National School Feeding Programme unearthed major “spending” inconsistencies plaguing the programme in two remote villages in Region Eight.
Notwithstanding the original aim of the programme, coordinators in the cited region had reportedly been abusing the responsibility and power vested in them. Particular scrutiny into the expenditures for each meal revealed outrageous costs attached to same, raising further queries as to whether the right procurement procedures were adhered to in the contract awarding stage, among other issues.
In 2018, the Auditor General’s report revealed that $52.5 million was still unaccounted for.