– cost overrun tagged at $112M
It appears that implementation of Government’s much touted Breakfast School Feeding Programme has run into trouble.
According to a leaked report of the Ministry of Education, dated May 31, 2018, a planned expansion of the programme has been halted until September. This was after it was discovered that the cost overruns had reached more than $112M.
The management of the programme would cause more anger at a time when the administration is cash-strapped.
According to the report prepared by Adele Clarke, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the ministry, to Kelly-Ann Hercules, Legal Officer, on the “…Supply and Delivery of Dietary Items, Dabi’s Variety “, pertaining to the breakfast programme, the programme started in 2016 as a pilot at nine schools.
“Benefitting were 657 students from the communities of Buxton and Enmore on the East Coast of Demerara. The idea was to replicate the programme in all the nursery and primary schools at the level of Grades 1 and 2, once the pilot was proven to be successful.
“Granted the success of the programme, it was decided to commence the roll-out to other schools in a phased way commencing with Region Four. Consequently, budgetary provisions were made for this expansion in the years 2017 and 2018,” the report said,
The Ministry requested approval of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to utilise the restricted tender method of procurement for the supply and delivery of the dietary items required for programme.
“This approval was granted on April 20, 2017. At the conclusion of the tender process, an award was granted to Dabi’s Variety dated June 12, 2017 for a period of one year at a contract sum of thirteen million, seven hundred and forty-six thousand, seven hundred and twenty dollars ($13,746,720).”
The report indicated that at the time of the tender, there were 38 schools on the programme. When the new school term commenced, an additional 83 schools were added to the programme, increasing the number of beneficiaries from around 3,500, to 15,239.
According to the Deputy PS, with the contract being in place for a period of one year, the Coordinator of the programme requested the supplier to provide the required quantities for the implementation of the programme over the period September 2017 to April 2018.
“However, keen attention was inadvertently not given to the contract sum resulting in a cost-over run on the contract sum. In March 2018, the Accountant overseeing the payments for the programme brought to my attention as well as the Coordinator that no invoices for payment from Dabi’s Variety were received since last October.”
Clarke reported that at this juncture, the Coordinator was asked to have same submitted.
“The invoices were subsequently submitted for the period October 2017 — March 2018. When the payments were prepared and submitted to my office for approval in April. It was then observed that there was a cost-over run on the contract sum as a result of the increased needs for the additional schools.”
Clarke said that the situation was immediately brought to the attention of the Permanent Secretary, Vibert Welch, and steps were taken to have the matter resolved.
“The Ministry consulted with the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board and was advised that the Ministry should write detailing the issue and to request approval. This was done immediately, and in light of the fact that by this time supplies were already delivered for April and May, the Ministry also requested an extension of the contract by one month (to include June) to complete the school term.”
By then, the cost overrun was approximately $112,429,592.
According to the report by the ministry’s Deputy PS, “This request (by the NPTAB) was not approved, and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board advised that the matter be sent to Cabinet for consideration.”
The report disclosed that the expansion of the programme was immediately halted and all schools that were slated to commence the programme in April 2018 were deferred to September 2018.
Clarke insisted that the Ministry’s decision to continue with the supplies from Dabi for the schools already benefitting from the programme, was influenced by the reality that in stopping the programme altogether so abruptly could have engendered serious implications.
“Also, immediate action has been taken to guarantee more consistent oversight and intentional monitoring so as to avert such recurrence,” Clarke vowed.
The school feeding programmes, under consecutive governments, have come under flak for the management, with fraud accusations rampant.
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