The Head of Public Relations at Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP), Siiba Alfa, has assured that the government will soon implement its decision to increase the feeding grant for caterers.
He said though the final determination on the exact amount to give to the caterers had delayed a bit since the announcement for increment was made, the government was working in consultation with the relevant decision-making bodies and partners to arrive at a mutually acceptable figure that would meet the current standards of living.
Some angry school feeding caterers staged a protest against the government in Kumasi last Monday and stormed the office of the Ashanti Region Minister, Simon Osei-Mensah, in all-red attires to demand increment and payment of their “three terms’ arrears”.
They had threatened to stop cooking for the beneficiary children until the government heeds to their demand for payment of their three terms’ arrears and increment in the feeding grant per child from the current 97pesewas
Approval of Grant Increment
Mr Siiba stated emphatically that the “government had already approved a proposal submitted to Cabinet through the Gender Ministry for an increase in the school feeding grant. The increment, he said, was captured in the 2023 budget statement and was announced by the Finance Minister”.
Appeal to caterers
The Public Relations Manager, in an interview with the media, appealed passionately to the caterers in the Ashanti Region and other regions threatening to embark on a sit-down strike to rescind their decision.
“We want to appeal to our dear caterers who are threatening to go on nationwide strike to exercise restraint, and cooperate with the processes leading to the payment of their 3rd term of 2022 arrears,” Mr. Siiba said.
Alleged three terms’ arrears
Conversely, Mr Siiba refuted the claims by a section of the aggrieved caterers that the government is presently owing them for three continuous terms.
He revealed that the government together with the GSFP Management just in April finished paying the caterers for the 2nd term of 2022 with an amount of GH¢200 million even before they staged the protest in Kumasi.
As it stands now, the government owes the caterers only 3rd term of 2022 and 1st term of 2023 which just ended.
“We are in the second week of the 2nd term of 2023 and per our policy, caterers are supposed to pre-finance the cooking until the end of the term before they can be paid what is due them for the 2nd term of 2023. So, the caterers are owed only 2 terms,” he insisted.
3rd term of 2022 payment
Mr. Siiba reiterated that the GSFP, in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, is working on the necessary documentations to ensure that payment for the 3rd term of 2022 is effected as soon as possible.
The Head of Public Relations of the Programme admitted that the frequent delays in the payment of arrears were seriously affecting the caterers and keeping majority of them in debt for a long time.
He also admitted that most of the caterers are unable to sleep in their homes or go to certain markets because they are always being hunted by their suppliers and creditors due to the delay in the payment.
He, however, attributed the phenomenon to the current economic challenges.
He also commended the government for its demonstrable commitment to salvaging the situation despite the inherent economic difficulties the country is facing.
Deduction of non-cooking days
On the other hand, Siiba Alfa reacted to the complaints of deductions in the payments of some caterers.
According to him, the deduction is called non-cooking days, and that, “it affects only those who were unable to cook for a number of days for whatever reasons in an academic term”.
He said that the non-cooking days are deducted by the government to ensure value for money and to also serve as checks and balances in the School Feeding Programme.
Meanwhile, Mr. Siiba urged any caterer who feels that she or he has been wrongfully deducted to contact their School Feeding Zonal and Regional Coordinators with copies of their daily record forms for immediate rectification or correction.