By Edward Adjei FRIMPONG, Sunyani
Caterers who have been engaged in the School Feeding Programme have expressed their unhappiness over the ?late disbursement? of funds by its Managers; a situation they say is largely affecting effective implementation of the programme.
According to the anxious caterers, managers of the programme have not disbursed any money to them in the last six months — compelling them to purchase all foodstuffs on credit from their suppliers within that period.
They say the enormity of their accumulated debts has exhausted the patience of their suppliers who have vowed not to do business with them anymore until they settle their indebtedness, thus putting the fate of the School Feeding Programme in serious jeopardy in the next academic term should managers delay further to disburse the ?meagre? outstanding money.
The caterers shared this sentiment during a regional consultation workshop on the formulation of a National School Feeding Policy held in Sunyani.
The gathering was aimed at developing a national policy process that involves citizens, intended beneficiaries, and all other stakeholders with a common purpose of validating findings and proposals for betterment of the programme.
The caterers, who were fuming frustration, stressed that the late disbursement of funds is not their only worry but also the quantum of the money — saying the amount allocated for it is awfully inadequate per the high price of goods coupled with its unpredictable upward adjustments.
Every pupil under the School Feeding Programme is budgeted for GH?0.40p per day. Meanwhile, GH?199milion was allocated for the running of the programme in the 2013 Budget.
They noted with concern that the financial constraints confronting it has the tendency to collapse the programme, should Government and other relevant stakeholders fail to intervene any time soon.
One of the caterers who spoke to Business & Financial Times on condition of anonymity regrettably said her engagement in the programme has carved a ghastly reputation for her as someone submerged in indebtedness.
?If I had known the programme was cash-strapped to this extent, I wouldn?t have taken the appointment as caterer whereby I will always be swimming in a pool of debt,? she said.
Mr. Seidu Paakuna Adamu, the National Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme, pointed out that if well-managed the programme could enhance local economic development and serve as a long-term investment in human capital to reduce hunger and also achieve nutrition, education as well as gender equality outcomes.
The Programme was rolled-out in 2005 with the cardinal aim of improving food security and reducing poverty in deprived and rural communities. Under its implementation children in selected public schools receive one meal, prepared from locally grown foodstuffs on every school-going day.
Mr. Adamu said the Programme, which currently has about 1,642,271 pupils nationwide benefitting from it, is being hampered by inadequate information-sharing between different levels of Government — thereby leaving districts and school-level decisionmakers as well as beneficiaries at the trouble-end.
He therefore called for a holistic and concerted effort to formulate a national policy to streamline the programme in order for the country to derive the intended benefits from it.