GP school feeding programme threatened by payment backlog

Hundreds of service providers claim to have not been paid by the education department since July last year.

Thousands of disadvantaged pupils in the country rely on the programme for food. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - More than 700 school nutrition service providers contracted to the Gauteng Education Department have told Eyewitness News that they have not been paid for services rendered since last October, with others claiming they have not been paid since July.

They claim their invoices often go missing, meaning they will now have to back-date documents.

The National School Nutrition Programme was introduced by the education ministry in 2009.

Its purpose is to enhance the educational experience of needy learners through the provision of a healthy meal at school.

One service provider, who wants to remain anonymous, says he is frustrated.

"How are we expected to survive?"

Provincial Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, says he met with the service providers late last year and explained the processes that need to be followed in order to receive payment.

"There is no reason why we can't pay them, and we are committed to paying them. We are just asking them to present new invoices so that they can be paid.

Thousands of disadvantaged pupils in the country rely on the programme for food - for some it's their only meal for the day.