The government, through the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, has given the assurance of paying all arrears owed caterers in Ghana’s School Feeding Programme (GSFP) for the third term of 2022 academic year.
Updating journalists on the payment of school feeding caterers and the way forward during the Ministry of Information’s press briefing in Accra, yesterday, the sector Minister, Lariba Zuweira Abudu, announced that all validations and auditing had been done, clearing the road for payment to commence.
“I have ensured that the auditing and due diligence is done. And it takes time, because the numbers are very voluminous hence the needed time for auditors to go through and make sure that every caterer who had cooked have been captured to date. So they have to bear with us when their payments are not coming on the due time. Certainly, we will pay them and next week we are paying them,” the Minister assured.
Mrs Zuweira Abudu indicated that as at April 2023, the Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, had paid for the first and second term arrears of the 2022 academic year.
On the third term payment of caterers for the 2022 academic year, she pointed out that 11, 052 caterers’ files had been cleared for payment. She noted that all caterers under the programme were paid based on the number of days cooked within a term.
“Some caterers who didn’t cook during the third term of the 2022 academic year due to certain reasons, will not be paid. As a caterer, you are being paid based on the number of days you cooked within a term. For instance, if we have 67days within a term, and Caterer Adwoa didn’t cook all the 67 days, and Caterer Abena cooked all the 67 days, you wouldn’t be paid equally.
“Adwoa who cooked 60days based on her inability to do so, we are going to pay her for the 60days, but Abena will receive all the 67days payment. That’s the difference, we need to establish this fact for caterers to know. It doesn’t mean that Abena is taking 67, you should also take the 67, No! because the report that we receive in the regions from the Coordinators and head teachers show that, once you only cooked for 60days, you are only going to be paid for the 60days,” she explained.
The Minister, however, disclosed that payment for some caterers are pending as a result of challenges with their Ezwich cards, including mismatched names and numbers.
She disclosed that the GSFP had 1,671,777 beneficiaries in 2016, which has increased to 3, 801, 491 in 2023, covering 10,832 public basic schools from Kindergarten to Primary 6.
“In the 2023 academic year the cost per meal per child has been proposed to be GHC1.20p, and we are still in talks with the Ministry of Finance to see how best to review it adequately to inform the public. It is challenging to think that we should be paying such an amount per child and expect that we will continue to achieve the objectives of the programme,” she added.
For now, she urged the caterers to manage what has been given them, while efforts are being made to increase the amount paid for each child.
“We cannot allow such a good programme that has a direct correlation with our development to stall,” she said.
The Minister observed that since the school feeding programme was implemented, several studies to assess its effectiveness has established that there had been an increase in primary school enrolment and attendance and the number of dropouts had decreased
She stressed that the school feeding programme continues to provide employment to about 34,350 caterers and cooks, especially women in the rural areas, to help them raise some income to support their livelihoods. According to her, it has also created a ready market for local farmers thereby boosting the local economy
She also disclosed that the programme is currently running an electronic monitoring system which provides real time data to enhance delivery. “With this software, we are going to include all caterers, all beneficiaries with the help of GES providing us with data, to know the number of schools, caterers, pupils, that we are feeding. So in the next one or two month, every caterers’ biodata would be on one database with fingerprints, to ensure transparency and accountability,” she indicated.
She, therefore, reaffirmed the commitment of her Ministry to implement planned activities and monitor compliance to standards so that no one is left behind.