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Incompetence and fraud threaten school feeding programme

Fraud and mismanagement have scuppered Nelson Mandela's cherished Pounds 80 million-a-year school feeding scheme in one of South Africa's largest and most populous provinces, the Eastern Cape. Suspension of the scheme has denied 1.8 million primary school pupils a daily meal.

It is suspected that as much as Pounds 1 million may have found its way into the pockets of contractors implementing the scheme. Bad management had been blamed for Pounds 19 million budgeted for the Eastern Cape scheme for the year being gobbled up in just four months.

By April this year the Primary School Nutrition Programme - one of 21 presidential lead projects launched as part of the country's massive Reconstruction and Development Programme - was feeding 5.4 million children with a basic meal each morning at 12,800 schools. Or so it was thought. The programme's national co-ordinator, Dianne Kloka, told the Weekly Mail and Guardian last week that, aside from the Eastern Cape, severe corruption had been discovered in the Eastern Transvaal, and there were indications of corruption in another two of the country's nine provinces.

It is believed that some contractors inflated the numbers of schoolchildren being fed, and that some food was not delivered. Problems were also encountered in evaluating how many children needed food, said Kloka.

The Department of Health, which co-ordinates the national programme, is currently working on a more effective plan for the scheme.

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