This reverting to an earlier system is the result of a demand from school authorities at the AEC

CPS: All schools should check the quality of Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) supplied  consignments on a quarterly basis.

The decision is a follow up on issues school authorities raised at the annual education conference (AEC) in Punakha last month.  The issues were raised, while deliberating on the school-feeding programme under the centralised procurement system (CPS).

FCB took over the centralised procurement of nine food items last July and had supplied the stock at a go.  School authorities pointed out that this had led to wastage and storage issues for schools.

Last month, FCB had received a food order note from the government to procure the nine non-perishable food items to be distributed twice a year.

But education ministry and FCB officials met earlier this month, where it was again agreed that the rations would be supplied on a quarterly basis, as was initially planned, to ensure quality of food.

“The first quarter delivery will be done in two phases – from January end to April, and the second phase would be from April to June, so that storage issues won’t arise,” FCB’s general manager of institutional supply, Megraj Gurung, said.

FCB officials said they have however already procured enough stock to last until June for delivery.

The meeting also decided that all schools are required to check the quality of stock on delivery and, if found unsatisfactory, schools could return them to the warehouse in-charge for replacement.

Megraj Gurung said although schools would no longer face quality or storage issues, FCB will have to ensure that the quality of the stocked items are maintained.

“Splitting the delivery in two phases means additional transportation cost, which the ministry will have to bear,” he said. “For the convenience of schools, education ministry agreed to bear the additional cost.”

The CPS was implemented in July last year, in collaboration with FCB, following the World Food Program (WFP) supply model.  The government covered 55 schools with three meals through a stipend of Nu 1,000 a student, while 27 schools were provided meals through WFP supply and central procurement.  Of the Nu 1,000 stipend, 60 percent was released to FCB, and the remaining 40 percent to the dzongkhags for procurement and supply of perishable food items.

Principals, attending the annual education conference last month, said the system needed to be revisited if not changed.  They complained that non-perishable items supplied by FCB were in excess and didn’t meet their requirements.  Other issues raised were problems of storage, poor quality of lentil, salt and soya chunks supplied, and insufficiency of the 40 percent budget for perishable items.

However, FCB officials said they received only a few complaints from schools last year.  On verification, issues were mainly to do with storage in schools after the supplies are delivered.

Citing a complaint on lentil quality from one of the schools in Gelephu, officials said that the stock was delivered in proper condition, and that the quality issues arose much later.

“We dispatch the same commodity to all schools throughout the country and, should there be issues, complaints should come from all,” Megraj Gurung said, adding FCB was doing its best not to compromise on quality of any food items.

FCB officials said they follow WFP parameters to ensure quality of food commodities.

The total schools FCB will cover this year is 109, which would keep increasing every year until WFP phases out by 2018.  FCB officials said they expect about 5,000 more students annually.

In terms of number of schools to be covered, Phuentsholing has the highest number of schools, followed by Samdrupjongkhar and Gelephu.

Meanwhile, the WFP warehouse in Phuentsholing has started receiving stock for the first quarter, which will be distributed to other FCB warehouses, from where it will be distributed to the schools.

Once the food commodities reach the respective regional warehouses, FCB officials said the distribution order would be issued simultaneously, after which the ration would be transported to schools.  Except for a few schools, officials said, most were near the road point.

By Kinga Dema, P/ling