It does not rain but pours at the Francistown City Council's (FCC) beleaguered supplies department as more skeletons continue to tumble out of the public institution’s closet. Mmegi Staff Writers, RYDER GABATHUSE & CHAKALISA DUBE follow the council's worst feeding scandal
FRANCISTOWN: After Mmegi’s recent exposé of the council’s supplies of rotten sorghum meal, beans and samp fed to the pupils at the city’s 20 primary schools, another feeding scandal is now unfolding at the FCC.
From last week, the council started pulling off some of the supplies from the schools’ storerooms and its Area G main warehouse to be destroyed at the landfill, as the wares had turned bad.
This duly confirms earlier fears that the FCC, through its Area G warehouse, was supplying schools within its boundaries with rotten food, a fact that was vehemently denied by the authorities at the council. Thousands of taxpayers’ money might have been going down the drain with the FCC senior leadership concealing the extent of the problem in their hands before their troubles were leaked to this publication. Even when the former FCC clerk, Mompati Seleka and his team recently shared their troubles to this publication, the gravity of the council’s feeding scandal was never estimated to its current level.
In Seleka’s explanations, blame squarely landed on the poorly ventilated storerooms at the various schools as the source of infestation because the storerooms are not even designed to store the foodstuffs.
As mitigation for the rotting foodstuffs, the council, through Seleka, had vowed to keep the schools’ storerooms under their watch as part of the bigger picture of keeping tabs on the supplies chain management. The council would also be utilising a government warehouse at the Dumela Industrial site, especially when schools closed as it is designed to store the foodstuffs for a longer period.
Competent store officers will also be engaged to keep watch on the schools’ wares.
From January to May this year about 197 bags of sorghum meal, beans and samp worth thousands of pula were destroyed as they were unfit for consumption.
Mmegi investigations have since revealed that the problem has always been bigger than how the FCC leadership had presented it.
It had been a time bomb waiting to explode anytime. It is worrying that the council has been failing to monitor the feeding patterns from the schools to inform them on their supply patterns to avoid supplying schools with excess food that ends up being infested.
Information sourced from the condemnation certificates compiled by the FCC environmental health inspectorate team recently, shows that food supplied to the schools was found unfit for human consumption because it was infested with weevils, worms and mould.
Even some foodstuffs stored at the council’s Area G warehouse and distributed to the schools, was found to be in a bad state and unfit for consumption.
“This is to certify that after examination, the under mentioned food items were found to be unsound or unfit for human consumption and have accordingly been seized and destroyed in accordance with Section 6 of the Food Control Act-No.11 of 1993,” reads the condemnation certificate, which is part of the examinations from 10 primary schools.
After 197 rotten bags were seized from 10 schools of the 20 in the city, the FCC is certainly headed for a big feeding scandal, which could find them on the wrong side of the law. The latest revelations come after concealment, deceit and lies about the real state of food supplies to the city primary schools.
It took the FCC about a month to concede that its warehouse at Area G was supplying rotten foodstuffs to the schools and when it was finally confirmed, it was like the whole supplies department had been hit by a storm. Under Section 12 of the Food Control Act, any person in whose possession shall be found any food liable to seizure shall in addition be liable to a penalty of not less than P1,000 and to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
Now, in a bid to clean the mess at their storages, Mmegi was tipped that from last week, the FCC supplies department started recalling all the supplies of sorghum meal, beans and samp, in particular sorghum meal dated 17/01/2018 from the 20 schools in the city and from its Area G warehouse as the supplies had either moulded or infested with weevils or worms.
An estimated total of over 500 bags or more of sorghum meal, beans and samp were recalled and taken directly to the council landfill for destruction as it was believed to be unfit for human consumption. These are estimated statistics as at Monday and they could rise as the supplies department continues to grapple with the infested foodstuffs.
Last week Friday, the Mmegi news crew followed some foodstuffs
The recalling of supplies stored at the main Area G warehouse confirms fears that the main source of the schools’ supplies is also infested with weevils, worms and mould. Although the warehouse was earlier given a clean bill of health, the reality on the ground has shown that it could have been the source of rotten sorghum supplied to the schools to feed unsuspecting pupils for a long time.
The recent developments negate a statement recently given by the council’s chief public health officer, Ookame Kelaeng who had stated that, “it has never happened that in the random inspections of wares at the Area G warehouse that we found the wares infested”.
Relying on its sources, the Mmegi news crew had raised questions as to why the council was relying on random sampling of the wares at the Area G warehouse when supplies of rotten food, which raised suspicion of the main warehouse possibly being the source of the trouble, hit the schools. Although the operation to clear the Area G warehouse and schools’ storerooms was intended to be a clandestine undertaking, the exercise was leaked to Mmegi.
Last Friday, the Mmegi news crew had the rare opportunity of visiting the Area G warehouse where they found trucks busy loading the condemned sorghum meal destined for the landfill.
We found a pile of sorghum meal in sacks dated 17/01/2018, and was ready to be ferried to the landfill as it had gone bad. At the schools around the city, trucks were busy recalling sorghum meal supplies en-route to the landfill, whilst other trucks were busy transporting new supplies to the schools.
As the council cleans its mess in an ongoing exercise, it goes without saying that it is the taxpayer that suffers as the foodstuffs bought with taxpayers’ funds continue to be poured down the donga.
Given the right to reply this week, senior council officers could not comment though they are directly responsible for supplying the schools.
Chief public health officer, Kelaeng indicated that last week he was not at work, hence he cannot comment on the recalling of food and re-supply of foodstuffs to the schools. He supervises the environmental health department inspectorate team that issued condemnation certificates last week.
Neither was Secretary for education at the FCC, Leslie Botsie who is responsible for the supervision of the supplies to schools. He was this week unwilling to talk to the media, referring all enquiries to the senior public relations officer, who had apparently joined the senior management team at a retreat in Selebi-Phikwe.
Yesterday, the new city clerk at FCC, Lopang Pule confirmed that the council destroyed some bagfuls of infected sorghum meal and samp.
“We carried out an inspection at the warehouse last week. After the inspection, we established that some bags were infested (with weevils, mould and worms). We destroyed around 300 bags (of sorghum and samp),” Pule said, giving only an estimated number of destroyed bags.
He added that not all the 300 bags were infested with weevils.
“We just decided to destroy the 300 bags as a matter of caution,” he said.
He noted that the city council rounded up the 20 primaries that are supplied by the council and they destroyed over 90 bags of sorghum and one of samp. He said that the 90 bags were sourced from six of the 20 schools.
Interestingly, two weeks ago council officials told Mmegi that the council warehouse was safer as a springboard for supplies to the schools.
“After media reports by The Monitor last week, we felt that it will be wise to do another inspection (which revealed a contamination at the warehouse).
“We strongly felt that there is need to get to the bottom of the matter. We are not trying to cover up the matter,” emphasised Pule.
Pule’s figures are closer to what our sources maintain are the numbers of destroyed infested bags last week at the insistence of the council management.
The FCC Chief Executive Officer indicated that the council would institute internal investigations to determine wrongdoers and what pertinent action(s) to take against them as empowered by the Food Control Act.