Written by Tharushan Fernando
18 Nov, 2015 | 10:05 pm
Speaking at an event held on Friday, the Minister of Education revealed that the free school uniform programme had been hijacked by a mafia.
He stated that as a result, students had only benefited from Rs.1.3 billion of the Rs.2.3 billion allocated for the scheme by the government.
The minister’s statement makes it evident that this revelation was made after studying the matter to a certain extent.
At the event held on November 13, the minister noted that since this mafia cannot be curtailed, a voucher scheme would be introduced this year to ensure that the 4.3 million school children in the country reap the full benefit of the Rs.2.3 billion allocated for the free uniform scheme.
The Minister of Education stated:
We will fearlessly take these decisions – and at times fear prevents such decisions from being made. I have no ulterior motives, I will stop the system which makes certain businessmen very wealthy and ensure that this vast sum of money will go to the students directly and this will be sufficient for them to get everything they need.
Nevertheless, when you take into consideration the series of events that form the background for next year’s free school uniform programme, it paints a picture that is completely contradictory to the minister’s statement.This is because just over two months after assuming duties, the minister planned to distribute the free school uniform material among students, as usual.
On March 23, the Minister submitted a cabinet paper, seeking approval to call for tenders for twelve million eight hundred and fifty two thousand one hundred and eighty eight metres of cloth.
This leads us to believe that either the Minister was unaware of the scheme being hijacked by a mafia at the time, or he believed that the mafia could be controlled. The minister seeks through this cabinet paper to call for competitive tenders.
This was intended to ensure that access to present tenders is extended not only to local manufacturers, but also to local suppliers. Cabinet granted approval for this cabinet paper on April 1.
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