By: Edzorna Francis Mensah
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin has directed members of five Committees in Parliament to investigate the activities of the National Food Buffer Stock Company and the Ghana School Feeding Program.
This is to find out the challenges that led to caterers ceasing to operate due to issues of underpayment and its related matters.
The Members of these committees, Education; Gender, Children and Social Protection; Health; Food and Agriculture and Finance are expected to investigate the two state organizations and report to Parliament on their findings and recommendations on the feasibility and sustainability of the two programmes before the end of October, 2022.
The Speaker reminded Members, particularly the leadership of the Committees, of Article 106 Clause 14 which reads, “A bill introduced in Parliament by or on behalf of the President shall not be delayed for more than three months in any committee of Parliament.”
“Hon Members may further avert their minds to Standing Order 136 which is a reproduction of Article 106 clause 14 on this matter. Even though these provisions deal specifically with public bills, they nevertheless, give an indication of how long Ghanaians expect a matter referred to a Committee of Parliament for investigation and enquiry could take, before a report is submitted to the House for necessary action”.
The Speaker who issued an official communication on the National Food Buffer Stock Company and the Ghana School Feeding Program on Tuesday 12 July, 2022 on the floor of Parliament following his fact finding visit to the two Secretariats of the two organisations on 23rd June 2022.
as part of Parliament’s oversight responsibility, specifically post legislative scrutiny function, to understand and obtain first-hand information on the state of affairs, as well as assess the situation on the ground, said there is “an empirical prima facie evidence, in order to guide the House on a proper response to this challenge”.
On the visit, the Speaker made his first stop at the National Food Buffer Stock Company, where he had a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer, Alhaji Hannan Abdul Wahab, management and staff.
There, it was revealed that stocking, recent hikes in prices of food and the inability of the Company to stock at the peak of harvest were some challenges being faced by the Secretariat.
The story, according to the Speaker, was similar at the Ghana School Feeding Program Secretariat (GFSP).
“During my interaction with the National Coordinator, Mrs Gertrude Quashigah, in the presence of her management team, she bemoaned the Ministry of Finance’s inability to pay the caterers on time. But forcefully insisted that the information in the public domain about the non-payment of caterers for a period of time was not accurate”, the Speaker said.
He said the School Feeding Program has great potential in accelerating the nation’s progress towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on hunger, poverty and malnutrition.
“It is therefore critical that we address issues affecting the efficient implementation of the program as matters of national priority, whilst instituting realistic and sustainable measures to avert a possible recurrence in the future of the situation we find ourselves in today” Mr Bagbin added.
The caterers, who ceased operations in May 2022, are requesting that their grants be increased from 0.97 pesewas to GHC3.00 per child.
A number of them have also threatened to terminate their contracts entirely due to months of non-payment of arrears by the government.
“I am aware of the extent to which the non-payment of these arrears is affecting school enrolment and attendance, particularly in rural communities”, he added.
“We have all accepted the truism that children and youth are the wealth of a nation. The situation we are in now affects the vulnerable school children and future leaders of this country. As political leaders, we are prioritizing political development over economic growth. We are neglecting a significant resource of development; the people. As MPs, we cannot fold our arms or follow partisan lines and positions whilst Rome burns. As you are all aware, Parliament is the primary democratic institution which represents the people of this country. Parliament is the only constitutionally legitimate authority to call the government to order and to put things right. We must resolve, here and now, to act quickly and decisively on this matter” the Speaker said.