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KwaZulu-Natal school nutrition programme facing fresh funding crisis, suppliers may down tools

Amid the uncertainity, uMlalazi mayor Queen Xulu donated food to local schools, saying she does not want them to be caught in the debacle again. Picture: Supplied

Amid the uncertainity, uMlalazi mayor Queen Xulu donated food to local schools, saying she does not want them to be caught in the debacle again. Picture: Supplied

Published May 5, 2023


Durban - The KwaZulu-Natal school nutrition programme is facing fresh hurdles as the local suppliers appointed by the MEC Mbali Frazer-led Department of Education (DoE) were not furnished with service-level agreements (SLAs) and budget allocation documents that are required by Ithala Bank in order to finance them.

The only document Frazer’s department has given to the suppliers is a letter of appointment.

Hence, Ithala Bank is not entertaining their applications for funding for the R2.1 billion scheme.

Late last week the department announced that it was reverting to the old decentralised supply system even though Pacina Retail insisted that it was in the game and its contract with the department was still in force.

Despite Pacina’s protest, the department instructed suppliers who are facing financial challenges to approach Ithala Finance Development Corporation (known as Ithala Bank) for financing.

However, the suppliers are now saying they are not being funded because their documents are not in order.

“Bheki Mtolo (ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary) makes a public statement that Ithala must loan the emerging NSNP (National School Nutrition Plan) service providers.

“However, DoE is not giving the service providers their SLAs, which they have already signed with DoE and the budget allocation document per contract or cluster,” one struggling supplier told IOL on Friday.

“These are two out of three documents which Ithala requires which are produced by DoE.

“The third document is a letter of appointment which the service providers already have because it is issued by DoE on day one of being appointed.

“Therefore Ithala cannot fund the native NSNP service providers because they do not have the two above documents.”

Sitandiwe Dimba, reputation manager: group marketing and communications at Ithala Finance Development Corporation, said they need all these documents for Fica (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) and other lending criteria purposes.

“Please note that proper documentation is critical in any money lending environment as IDFC is regulated by the Fica and NCR (National Credit Regulator),” Dimba told IOL when asked to clarify why they are not funding the suppliers.

The department is also allegedly refusing to pay the struggling suppliers for the work they did in April.

“As if the above is not enough, DoE is refusing for the NSNP service providers to claim for their work done in the month of April, last month, which they should have claimed at the end of April. DoE is saying it is not yet ready to receive their April claims. What a recipe for a disaster,” said the service provider.

The spokesperson for the department, Muzi Mahlambi, did not respond when asked why they are not providing the required documentation.

Meanwhile, the IFP-led Umlalazi (eShowe) local municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal is forging ahead with supplying food to all schools within its district amid the funding crisis.

On Friday, the municipality’s mayor, Queen Xulu, took her outreach programme to three schools in the Mbongolwane area.

Xulu said she was shocked to discover that some suppliers brought limited foodstuff that could not even cover half of the pupils.

uMlalazi Municipality has about 117 schools, of which 34 are high schools and the rest are primary schools.

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