Committee worried about closure of food banks

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Social Development Portfolio Committee says it is deeply concerned about abrupt closure of food banks and termination of funding to food relief cooperatives in Gauteng.

This comes after a portfolio committee meeting held on Thursday, where the Social Development Department gave an account on the closure of food banks and termination of funding to food relief cooperatives that supplied necessities including school uniform and dignity packs to communities.

The committee said the closure of food banks and funding has a huge impact on the already vulnerable individuals in the province.

“Some of the impact means that 68 000 beneficiaries will go without food, including 12 000 people living with HIV/Aids, who were depending on the food parcels. Ninety thousand Early Childhood Development (ECD) beneficiaries, who are on food security, will also lose out,” said committee chairperson Thuliswa Nkabinde.

According to a report presented to the committee, the sudden closure of the food banks followed signs of fraud detected by Treasury. It was then recommended that food banks be closed down for a full forensic investigation to take effect.

Classification Circular 21 from National Treasury recommends that the department no longer directly transfer funds straight to Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) to buy goods and services. The circular says there is a need for the reclassification of all goods and services to be procured via the supply chain management system. 

Nkabinde, however, noted that the abrupt closures and recommendations by Treasury could have been handled better, with time given to the department to notify the NPOs and consider different measures to remedy the situation, including service level agreements that have already been signed between NPOs and the department.

The committee recommended that a MINMEC (Ministers and Members of the Executive) consultation should take place as soon as possible with regards to National Treasury Classification Circular 21.

While a forensic investigation is taking place, the committee emphasised the need to find alternative ways to distribute and provide beneficiaries with food, instead of relying on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), considering the challenges faced by the agency.

The committee also recommended an urgent plan to be put in place to remedy the non-distribution of much needed dignity packs to beneficiaries.

“The entire process needs to consider the investment already made by government on the empowerment of cooperatives. Should government decide to go ahead with the recommendations, as per National Treasury Circular 21, the department must provide a plan on how existing cooperatives will be incorporated in the supply chain management processes to ensure continuation of NPOs,” Nkabinde said. –