School canteens become procurers of local food
In Mali, the central government allocates funds to communes ("municipalities") to support local education services including school feeding. These funds are subject to federal public procurement procedures. Despite a decree that requires the Comité de Gestion Scolaire (CGSs), or school management committees, to be the direct recipients of school feeding funds from the communes, many CGS members are neither aware of their role in the funding nor are they well-versed in public procurement processes and the follow-up required to ensure compliance. Furthermore, local officials often procure for school feeding instead of CGSs due to the same lack of awareness. As an unintended result of this, the quality and timeliness of school feeding quality to pupils can be affected, and there can be missed opportunities to source produce from local smallholder farmers, benefiting their agricultural economy.
For example, the school of Gomakoro in the Sansanding commune of the Segou region, ran into issues when proper procurement procedures were not followed, which resulted in the procurement documents being rejected by the government on the basis of procedural mismanagement. This caused a delay in school feeding funds disbursed to Gomakoro from the national government in the following school period, resulting in Gomakoro school being unable to provide its students with meals.
To address situations such as this, SNV’s Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) project offered procurement procedure training to CGSs in 76 canteens in the project intervention area within the regions of Koulikoro and Segou that receive state funding. The training focuses on public procurement principles and implementation, and includes transparent ways to create direct purchase relationships between school feeding and the smallholder farmers that live in the same community as the CGS. These relationships are also expected to increase parent and local community involvement in the monitoring and evaluation of the use of funds, which will lead to greater transparency and social accountability at all levels of the system.
The CGSs were introduced to the steps and associated tools of the school feeding procurement process. In addition, the training functioned as a means to better inform also invited commune officials on the provisions of the decree that instruct communes to transfer school feeding funds to the CGSs and to raise awareness on its application. Participation in the training included all stakeholders, including farmer representatives, which will ensure their participation when school feeding procurement transits from local officials to CGSs. The trainings also emphasized the importance of transparency in the use of the funds to prevent misappropriation, embezzlement, favoritism and misuse.
In this pilot alone, 238 people received procurement training. Across the course of the entire PG-HGSF project in Mali, 1,489 CGS members from 31 communes received training in procurement governance and inclusive markets. Additionally, in some places local officials were able to begin transferring control of funds and procurement to the CGSs. Moving forward, it will be important for the communes to continue supporting the CGSs so they may familiarize themselves with the procurement process and materials when more control of school feeding is transferred to the CGSs.