SERAP, while invoking the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, had forwarded a request dated May 9, 2020 and signed by its Deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, to the federal government demanding the details.
It required information about suppliers, contractors, the procurement rules, including bidding processes, the total budget, and all designated voucher distribution and collection sites for the implementation of the programme.
SERAP also wants to know the number of states to be covered during the COVID-19 crisis, the projected spending per state, details of the mechanisms and logistics that have been put in place to carry out the programme, as well as the the World Food Programme involvement.
PerSecondNews recalls that on May 6, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk had announced plans by the Federal Government to start the school feeding programme for children in their homes, starting from Ogun and Lagos states, and The FCT.
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored, and to ensure that the programme benefits the children and families who need it the most,” it said.
SERAP insisted that publishing the details would also remove the risks of conflicts of interest and politicisation of the programme, as well as promote transparency and accountability.
To this end, SERAP advised the government to set up an online national database for all suppliers and contractors responsible for carrying out the programme to feed school children in their homes expected to cover about three million households in Lagos and Ogun states, and Abuja.
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.
” If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.
“This home feeding programme reportedly followed the directive in March, 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari to your Ministry to identify modalities and continuation of the school feeding programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FoI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to including information on details of suppliers and contractors that have been hired to implement the school feeding programme at home are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means,” the rights body pointed out.
SERAP explained:“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FoI Act.
“The information requested for as indicated above, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FoI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”