W/R: School Feeding caterers threaten strike

As schools prepare to open, thousands of basic school children in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis in the Western Region may not enjoy their free meal under the Ghana School Feeding Programme as caterers – under the Programme – have threatened not to cook for non-payment.

Speaking on the Monday, January 17 edition of Connect FM’s morning show, a caterer, who wants to remain anonymous, complained bitterly that government has not paid “some of us since 2019”.

“Our monies have not been paid. Parts of the second term have not been paid. Twenty days of the hot meal have also not been paid. Monies have also not been released for the work we did in 2019.”

According to her, the non-payment has left some of the caterers with huge debt, claiming that “four of my colleagues have died as a result”.

“Here in Western Region, one man has died as a result of this non-payment. Four days ago, a certain woman in Swedru died out of shock. Personally, my BP is at a worrying level. I can’t sleep, it is very painful that we have worked for a year and we have not been paid. Our workers are constantly on us for their salaries and there is no money.”

The caterer, one of many in Sekondi-Takoradi, insisted that though they are aware of the payment module, it is regrettable and frustrating that their monies will delay – for years – when they are expected to continue cooking.”

Speaking amidst tears, she threatened that they may not be able to cook for the children as they have run out of funds.

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“…please where is the money to cook for them. If there is money or we have been paid, then we can cook but we have not been paid. If I credit items from you, I don’t pay and this continues for a period of time, will you be encouraged to continue giving me the items on credit? I am not sure.”

She observed with worry that sometimes when monies are paid they are not paid in full and the rest is eventually forgotten.

“I’m owed two terms and 20 days hot meal. There is also some that have been paid but not in full. What they do is they don’t pay in full, they pay and leave some. They go ahead to pay subsequent ones leaving the previous outstanding debt.”

She cried that “as I speak I am owed GH¢90,000 and I’m getting frustrated by the day as my creditors are on me”.

According to her, some of their creditors have resolved to take them to court for non-payment even though it is not their fault that monies have not been released.

But in a response, Western Region Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme Abena Kwallah described as regrettable the stance taken by the caterer.

According to her, the terms of the contract were clear that they have to pre-finance their cooking.

“To be honest, if the caterer who complained will be truthful, she will realize that before she signed the contract, the wording on the form was very explicit that you will cook before government pays. And if indeed she is a caterer, she agreed to the terms before she signed. They are aware that you are only paid one term after you cook for two terms.”

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However, she assured the caterer and her colleagues that government is making all the necessary efforts to get them paid.

“We have started paying. But for the Covid-19, I’m not sure the caterers will be complaining about non-payment. Now, we are paying for the second term. Payment has commenced and it is done on regional basis. So I know this week will be the turn of Western Region. But I cannot be specific on the particular day that it will start. Nobody will intentionally not pay them when indeed they have worked. They should be patience and bear with us. We are and will pay.”

By Eric Yaw Adjei|Connect FM|3news.com|Ghana