Big fear for small business in Mpumalanga

2012-05-29 14:46

The Mpumalanga government may cut off more than 60 emerging businesses which benefit from the province’s R474.5 million-a-year school feeding scheme.

Instead, the work will be given to just three companies.

Concerned service providers of the Mpumalanga Schools Nutrition Programme told City Press they feared for their livelihoods because the department of education had been delaying advertising a new tender since the last one expired in March.

If the 67 company owners’ suspicions are confirmed, the Mpumalanga government would have taken about R1 billion worth of business from emerging companies in two sectors in just six months.

Mpumalanga education spokesperson, Jasper Zwane, said the department had been renewing the companies’ contracts on a month-to-month basis.

Zwane said his department was looking into “administrative matters” and he neither confirmed nor denied any intention to adopt the model favoured by the provincial department of public works, roads and transport – that of hiring one company per region.

“Specifications will be clarified when the tender is issued,” Zwane said.

He said the school nutrition programme fed 835 444 pupils in the province’s most impoverished communities.

A Nelspruit-based businesswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “It is now an open secret that we’ll be replaced with three companies of politically connected individuals in the Gert Sibande, Ehlanzeni and Nkangala regions.

That explains why the department has been stalling until this time to advertise the tender.”

Another service provider said: “These rumours have been gaining momentum since last year.

If they were not true, the department could have finished the process of appointing companies since a new financial year has already begun.”

Last year, the public works, roads and transport department axed more than 300 scholar transport operators in the province’s biggest regions – Gert Sibande and Ehlanzeni North – and replaced them with just two companies in the R500-million business.

This was after Premier David Mabuza appointed a Commission of Inquiry, which reportedly uncovered massive corruption in the scholar transport system which implicated civil servants.

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