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Thousands of contracts for school meals have been put on ice as the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department tries to root out graft in the programme.
Having discovered certain officials, school governing bodies and principals might have their fingers in the pie, head of department Nkosinathi Sishi recently suspended the 2012/13 process to appoint suppliers.
The department has extended the old contracts, affecting 5 190 schools, until November.
New suppliers who ex-pected to begin providing the service last month are crying foul.
One says he spent R80 000 on equipment and transport using a loan he will be unable to repay until the moratorium is lifted.
He said that after being appointed by a school governing body, he heard the department had met schools to discuss the awarding of contracts.
“Later I heard the old contracts had been extended. The old contractors (went) to court, complaining of corruption in the appointment of contractors and saying they had not been told about the ending of their contracts,” he said.
He said he conformed to the new criteria that service providers be local and not be contracted to numerous schools.
He was certain his contract would be reinstated, but the old suppliers might put up a fight.
Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said governing bodies had powers only to recommend suppliers.
“Some new governing bodies complained that the old structures selected suppliers. (Sishi) could not ignore (reports of) improper influence.”
Lucky Mnikathi, of the Masondle Ngeqiniso Food Suppliers’ Association, saidhe knew of a supplier who had contracts with 250 schools, but “there’s nothing illegal in this”.