Mpumalanga’s corruption riddled school feeding scheme, which has burdened government with litigation in the past, will now be managed by the department of agriculture.
The project has been managed in the department of education all along but disgruntled service providers have repeatedly sued the department for flouting tender procedures.
Cabinet had wanted to move the scheme to the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (Mega), but that has now been abandoned.
Agriculture MEC Vusi Shongwe told City Press that Cabinet had taken the decision because his department produced the food and had built agri-hubs to support the project.
“That decision is being finalised technically and legally. We produce the food and our farmers keep it in our agri-hubs. Three agri-hubs have been built in the province and we’re going to build more in the Nkomazi and Gert Sibande regions,” Shongwe said.
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“Since we produce the food, other departments such as correctional services, health and social development must be our clients. We can determine the quality of the food being supplied to our people,” Shongwe added.
The school nutrition scheme feeds about 600 000 pupils from 189 villages and townships in Mpumalanga. It has a budget of more than R1.2 billion over three years.
Meanwhile, the Mpumalanga department of education is yet to resolve a complaint by 32 service providers appointed in 2018. But everything stalled when the transfer of the project to Mega was decided.
The service providers were worried that the school nutrition programme’s bid adjudication and evaluation process would be started afresh. The service providers still have not been appointed and have threatened legal action if they are not appointed.
Mega had promised to source its products directly from small-scale farmers, utilise small, medium and micro enterprises and use transport companies owned by young people.
The parastatal said the companies, which supplied the food previously, were not compelled to source them from local smallholder farmers and small businesses.
On Tuesday Shongwe also promised that his department would do the same.
In 2013, the department of education was ordered by the Pretoria High Court to follow supply chain processes when nine companies challenged it for appointing 17 firms that did not qualify.
The court found massive corruption involving education officials who appointed companies that were not registered with the department of labour. Some of the companies had submitted their bid documents after the closing date.
The court also found that the department had appointed a company registered a month before the closing date of the tender, and it neither had the infrastructure nor experience to do the job.
Other companies quoted prices that were four times higher than what the department set but were still appointed. The department lost its appeal against the decision in 2017, forcing it to appoint the qualifying companies for three years.