Funds will be made available tomorrow to caterers with the National School Dietary Services Limited (NSDSL).
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Lenor Baptiste-Simmons confirmed this yesterday at a press conference held by the Ministry of Education.
Baptiste-Simmons said the ministry made funds available on Friday and that cheques would be ready for caterers by tomorrow.
Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan said he had been in touch with the NSDSL CEO and arrangements have been made.
“In fact, I just got a message from her before the press conference where she asked me to flag the schools that would not be reopened so that adjustments could be made to the service. The funding for payments have been identified and we’re going to work that through, but in terms of the service, it will resume next week,” Seecharan assured.
In recent times, several caterers contracted under the NSDSL, to provide breakfast and lunch meals to students from the pre to secondary school levels across T&T, had stated that they might not have been able to continue operations in the term ahead.
In an interview with the Sunday Guardian, some even indicated up to last week that they had not yet received menu options from the NSDSL.
We were told some of the caterers received part payments at the end of June, but according to information received, the 75 caterers attached to the NSDSL were owed just under $100 million. A reliable source, over $15 million had already been paid out to caterers.
According to the NSDSL, caterers should be paid within a month of the invoice date for services rendered. However, some of them have complained about having to wait for more than a year for payment.
NSDSL officials estimated that $220 million is required to effectively continue operations per year.
The contractual agreement between Government and caterers stipulates that the providers supply a predetermined number of meals to schools within a specific zone.
A total of 83,000 lunches and 56,000 breakfast meals were provided during the 2017/2018 academic year. It has not yet been determined if this number will vary for the academic year 2018/2019.
Online research indicated that in 2014 the annual budget was just under $259 million while the 2015 school feeding budget was said to be slightly less at $250 million.
Officials confirmed that a breakfast meal cost $8 each, while lunches were $9.50 per meal.