The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, has explained reasons for the delay in the payment of cooks engaged in the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHSFP).
In a statement signed by the special adviser on media to the ministry, Salisu Dambatta, on Sunday, she said the delay arose from the change of payment process from Remita to the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).
The minister further explained that the change would enhance accountability and transparency in public financial management.
Ms Farouq said that once the process is done, the payment for the cooks would begin.
”With the conclusion of migration to GIFMIS, all pending payments will be effected within days,” the minister said.
The statement did not indicate the number of benefiting states that are being owed salaries and the number of months owed.
Remita is an electronic payment platform that enables businesses and individuals to receive and make payments to government, while the GIFMIS, launched in 2003, is an IT-based system being implemented by the federal government to enhance accountability and transparency in public financial management.
The minister noted that the aggregators in the programme have been paid along with the cooks that were captured by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), while the payment is outstanding for cooks that were not captured by the NBS.
The aggregators are companies contracted by the government to provide proteinous supplements like fish, beef, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
However, PREMIUM TIMES understands that not all states have the aggregators initiative, some states like Katsina prefer to give their cooks money to buy the foodstuff themselves and cook the food.
In some states, the food items are purchased and supplied to the vendors by the state governments, through the ”aggregators.” Under such an arrangement, the cooks are only paid “salaries” as their role is to just cook and serve the meals.
The HGSF programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the Social Investment Programme of the President Buhari administration. It was projected to provide 1.14 million jobs across the country, including community women who would be engaged as cooks.
The programme, with the partnership of state governments, aims to support states to collectively feed over 24 million school children, which will make it the largest school feeding programme of its kind in Africa. The goals include tackling poverty and improving the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups.
According to a 2019 government document titled “Investing in Our People,” the programme is feeding over nine million pupils in 52,604 schools across 30 states and has empowered 101,913 cooks with bank accounts.
PREMIUM TIMES July last year published a special report on how the programme has impacted financially including rural women in Katsina State.
A survey done by this newspaper revealed that many of the HGSF programme beneficiaries never had bank accounts before. Many also narrated their vulnerability before they found placement in the programme.
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