FRANCISTOWN: When Mmegi first broke the story that the beleaguered Francistown City Council (FCC) supplies department was feeding primary school pupils with rotten food, there was denial, concealment and deceit.
The knee-jerk reaction from some senior council officials was dismissive and rubbished any claims of the council ever supplying rotten food to the schools. Interestingly, it was claimed that professionals who knew what to do at any given time manned the supplies chain management.
Even before the ink dried after publishing the initial story, breaking the difficulties the council was facing in handling the foodstuffs at the schools and at the main warehouse supplying the schools, the information was pouring in that the council’s supply chain management was flawed.
Leakages in the supply chain management were mainly to blame for the wastage that the council continued to experience as foodstuffs were destroyed to avoid spoiling other supplies.
Between January and June, the FCC has destroyed nearly 700 bags of sorghum meal, samp and beans because they were infested with mould, worms and weevils. The latest destruction of about 500 bags of foodstuffs from the schools’ storerooms and the council’s Area G warehouse came after Mmegi sources had insisted that the source of the council’s troubles was the warehouse itself, which some senior council staff denied was the cause. At some stage, former FCC city clerk, Mompati Seleka confirmed that some council staff dragged their feet to supply schools with foodstuffs from the Area G warehouse claiming that it was infested. Seleka and his team were actually depending on a report issued by the council’s chief public health officer, Ookame Kelaeng who insisted that his office was satisfied that the Area G warehouse, was very clean and could not be the source of infestation.This is how the council’s secretary for education, Leslie Botsie responded when he was first contacted on the allegations of the council supplying rotten foodstuffs: “We have professional people at the warehouse who regularly test food items that are supplied by the council to schools and other government organisations. If the food is not fit for consumption they issue a condemnation certificate”.
He would add: “We supply schools with food monthly and on a weekly basis we receive reports on the stock we have supplied. If there is a problem with the food supplied, the schools report to us and we act accordingly. Schools have not reported any problem with regards to our food supplies in recent times”.
Botsie deliberately offered his concocted explanations oblivious that the Mmegi news team was far ahead with evidence from the reliable sources. It would, however, emerge that some senior council authorities including Seleka, were not even aware of the troubles unfolding at the right under their noses. Upon realising that they were caught unawares, Seleka would own up, acknowledging that the Mmegi stories have in fact, not tarnished the good name of the institution. Rather, it has helped them appreciate a lot of things, especially communication.
Seleka, who is an economist by training, appreciated the Mmegi exposé.
“We appreciate some things that have been raised and we look at them positively. If we had met earlier in a similar fashion, the story could have come out better.” He emphasised that Mmegi investigations have come to them positively as feedback from the public that has helped correct some things within their supply chain management. He was elated that the stories have come at a better time as the council has come up with deliberate mitigations to close the gaps in their systems. They will closely monitor the schools supplies and engage competent people to man the storerooms at the schools. Once schools closed, the supplies will be relocated to the government warehouse at the Dumela Industrial site amongst some of their intervention. Equally, there will be regular inspections at the Area G warehouse, which supplies the 20 schools in the city.
The new city clerk, Lopang Pule this week confirmed our fears. “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 (sorghum and samp combined)”.
Pule also highlighted the source of inspiration to follow up the matter.
“After media reports on 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,” Pule emphasised.