July 13, 2022

The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Bagbin has directed investigations into the activities of the National Food Buffer Stock Company, and The Ghana School Feeding Program following a matter of concern and of public interest as brought to his attention in the aftermath of the caterers of the School Feeding Programme’s recent protest and strike action.

The Speaker in his official communication to the Members of Parliament on Tuesday July 12, 2022 directs five Committees including;
1. Education
2. Gender, Children and Social Protection
3. Health
4. Food and Agriculture, and
5. Finance to jointly carry out the task and report to parliament findings and recommendations on the feasibility, sustainability of the two programs before the end of October this year.

Throwing light on the two institutions, the Speaker indicated that the caterers, who ceased operations in May of this year, are requesting that their grants be increased from 0.97 pesewas to GHC3.00 per child per meal. A number of them have also threatened to terminate their contracts entirely due to months of non-payment of arrears by the government. “I am aware of the extent to which the non-payment of these arrears is affecting school enrolment and attendance, particularly in rural communities”.
He further stated that the School Feeding Programme provides great potential to accelerate the nation’s progress towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on hunger, poverty and malnutrition. It is therefore critical that we address issues affecting the efficient implementation of the program as matters of national priority, whilst instituting realistic and sustainable measures to avert a possible recurrence in the future of the situation we find ourselves in today.

He said his visit to the two institutions as recent as 23rd of June 2022, as part of Parliament’s oversight responsibility gave him some insight into the happenings in these institutions. At the National Food Buffer Stock Company, the Chief Executive Officer, Alhaji Hannan Abdul Wahab, highlighted the company’s challenges in areas such as stocking for government use, recent price increases in food items, which have stalled the government’s initiative to roll out plans for price stabilization of goods and services, and the inability of the Company to stock at the peak of harvest, among others. He was also not happy the viability and efficacy of such laudable program are being affected by lack of funding, thus compelling management to assess funding from commercial sources such as ADB Ltd.

The National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Program, Mrs Gertrude Quashigah bemoaned the Ministry of Finance’s inability to pay the caterers on time, but forcefully insisted that the information in the public domain about the non-payment of caterers for a period of time was not accurate. “Indeed, in 2021, SEND GHANA monitored the GSFP, focusing on the tendering and procurement process of services and caterers. According to the survey, when it comes to challenges faced by caterers, the overwhelming majority cited persistent payment delays and inadequate grant value as major factors undermining the delivery of quality of service to the school children. The evidence of the presence and domination of party apparatchiks getting favors as caterers is overwhelming”.

This information, he noted contradicts the information given by the National Coordinator of the Ghana School Feeding Program. This is unfortunate and unacceptable. “Let me also state that there exist obvious gaps between what the National Food Buffer Stock Company claim to supply and the realities that are unfolding in the education sector, particularly in relation to Senior High Schools. The response to a July 7, 2022 publication by the Conference of Heads of Assisted Secondary Schools (CHASS) in the Upper West Region, complained about the National Food Buffer Stock Company’s refusal to supply food items to Senior High Schools. I am aware that other regions face similar, if not worse, challenges”.

The Speaker said the situation is a “NO NO for a country that claims to prioritise human capacity development” And emphasised that the lives and proper development of these vulnerable and defenceless children are critical to the future of this country, and “we cannot stand by and do nothing as things deteriorate. We must be able to oversee government to set the priorities of this country right. Let it not be said that we are part of the generation of leaders who supported this indecisiveness in standing for the protection and development of the child. If we are committed to dispelling this notion, the counter-narrative to this must begin with us”, he emphasized.