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SERAP seeks transparency on FG’s home school feeding programme

By Idowu Abdullahi,

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Federal Government to ensure transparency in all its dealing concerning the planned home school feeding programme.

It explained that details of the suppliers and contractors of the school feeding programme must be published and made accessible to ensure transparency towards achieving aim of the programme.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his first broadcast in March, directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with relevant state governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme despite the closure of schools.

The move, he said, was part of his administration’s measures to cushion the impact of the novel virus and lockdown on vulnerable households, adding that such initiative would help families stay indoor and maintain social distancing to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

Acting on the President’s directive, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk, on Saturday, while speaking at the Karimajiji Disabled Colony in the FCT during the distribution of palliatives to Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), announced that plans had been concluded to start feeding school children in their homes in four states of the federation namely Ogun; Kano, Lagos states, and Abuja.

To achieve the implementation, she said, the ministry would collaborate with state governors to work out modalities on how the feeding programme would continue while pupils are at home while revealing that a door-to-door voucher distribution system would be used for the feeding exercise.

However, worried by possible mismanagement and corruption which may mar the exercise, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the implementation of the programme.

Kolawole, through a Freedom of Information, request dated 9 May 2020 and sent to the Minister, asked the government to prioritize transparency in the implementation of the exercise by establishing an online national database for all suppliers and contractors contracted to carry out the programme.

“By publishing the details requested is in the public interest, this would help to address public skepticism regarding the ability of the government to satisfactorily implement the programme, promote openness, and allow Nigerians to track its implementation and to hold suppliers and contractors to account.

“SERAP notes that the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party requires the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored and to ensure that the programme benefits the children and families who need it the most.

“Publishing the details of suppliers and contractors and the procurement rules being implemented for executing the school feeding programme at home would also remove the risks of conflicts of interest and politicisation of the programme, as well as promote transparency and accountability.

“We urge you to also establish an online national database for all suppliers and contractors responsible for carrying out the programme to feed school children in their homes, which is expected to cover over three million households in Lagos and Ogun states, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request,” he said.

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