Long wait for KwaZulu-Natal school nutrition programme suppliers to get paid after being told it will take 20 days

Education MEC Mbali Frazer’s department will pay suppliers while facing Pacina’s legal headache. Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Education MEC Mbali Frazer’s department will pay suppliers while facing Pacina’s legal headache. Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 13, 2023


Durban - Suffocating suppliers of the KwaZulu-Natal school nutrition programme will have to wait for almost a month to get paid for services they rendered during the turbulent month of April.

This was after the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education led by MEC Mbali Frazer told them in an internal memo on Friday that it will take almost a month to process their payments.

This comes as some suppliers were threatening to down tools, citing financial difficulties after Ithala Finance Development Corporation turned down their funding requests.

The state-owned bank wanted documents like service level agreements (SLAs) and Frazer’s department was not giving them to the suppliers.

IOL can also reveal, through information gleaned from confidential notes of suppliers, that the food prices were too high for them to afford it while painstakingly waiting to be paid.

Other suppliers revealed that they were struggling to source some items required by schools, placing doubt on the future sustainability of the programme that feeds 2.4 million learners across the province.

Some suppliers wanted to surrender their schools to other suppliers with financial means, saying the load was too heavy for them to continue carrying.

The department has since stepped in and said it will pay them, but the process to do so will take longer.

It said all claims correctly filed will be authorised for payment on May 26 after undergoing three steps that will take 15 days.

This comes as the department is facing the legal headache of having to pay Pacina Retail which has written lawyers’ letters, reminding it that its contract was still binding.

“All service providers will be eligible to submit claims for the full eleven (11) feeding days for the month of April 2023,’’ the department said in the internal memo seen by IOL.

“A single invoice will be used by service providers when they submit a claim for services rendered for the month of April 2023.

“All schools are directed to complete the EF73 form and detail all food items not received for the month of April 2023,” it added.

In the same internal memo, it said there is a possibility that some suppliers may not be paid.

“Any non-payment is as a result of a disallowance for failure to procure and deliver sufficient food items. Disallowances shall be effected where applicable.

“During the month of April 2023 all service providers procured through the Private Label (Pacina Retail) on behalf of their respective clusters at the directive of the department with their consent as per tender requirements.

“However, there are reported cases where food items were not delivered. In such cases, schools are advised as follows:

“Effect full payment for all service providers as per the applicable rate reflected below.

“Record in detail all food items in EF73 which were not delivered to school/s during the month of April 2023,” the department said in the memo signed by Thanduxolo Cele, the director of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

“Regarding the requirement for service providers to buy LP gas and supply them to schools, the department will pay up to R2 100.

“KZN NSNP Circular 55 of 2023 guided on the procurement of fuel (wood/gas) for the month of April 2023.

“All service providers are advised to submit an invoice / slip for buying gas to the relevant school/s for the school/s to stamp and sign the gas invoice and attach it to the standardised single invoice as proof that the school received the gas.

“Invoice amounts for gas will be in the following sliding scale:

‘Learners from 1 – 500; the service provider will submit a claim for R920,00.

“Learners from 501 and above; service provider will submit a claim for R2 100,00.

“Where the slip is lost but the schools can confirm receipt of gas; the school must write a letter confirming receipt of gas in a school letterhead signed and stamped by the principal,” it said.

On Thursday, the provincial government, after its weekly meetings, issued a statement where it said all was on track with the programme.

‘Tracing teams continue to make follow-ups and are monitoring the roll-out of the NSNP using an online tool, Geospatial Technology that derives real-time data into the KwaZulu-Natal Information and Innovation Hub,” it said in its statement.

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