SAO audited the payment of appropriations for school meals

Toomas Mattson | 12/7/2004 | 12:00 AM

Text size: [-A] [+A]

Language: EST | RUS | ENG


TALLINN, 7 December 2004 - The State Audit Office (SAO) has audited the administration of the payment, use and control of appropriations for school meals and found that the system needs elaboration and proper supervision.

Funds are appropriated from the state budget for school meals according to established standards. After examining the school meal’s average cost per day in the schools, it appeared that by region the differences may vary by more than twofold. Variations depend on whether catering services are contracted or own kitchen is run on the premises. In case of a school kitchen, the staff costs and other costs are covered by the municipality and the cost of meals per day is formed by the cost of necessary foodstuffs. In schools where the service provider is a caterer governed by private law, the average school meals cost per day equals the amount reimbursed by the government. At the same time, the meal provider has to incur expenses, which in the case of own kitchen are paid directly from the local budget (the above-mentioned staff costs, etc) and also to earn profits.

The SAO finds that the Government should determine which costs can be reimbursed from the allocated funds. Otherwise it may happen that in schools with a contracted catering service a child may get less or lower quality food.

The SAO has also stated that most of the audited local authorities have not invited public tender for finding a meal provider. In many cases local authorities or schools had concluded with the meal provider the so-called “rental contracts” which regulate the purchase of catering services. Since in most cases the value of acquired services exceeded the threshold value for public procurement, they were required to publish an invitation to tender.

According to the law currently in force, the purchase of a catering service is not an exception for the purpose of the Public Procurement Act, although the Public Procurement Office finds that the application of full-scale procedure for public procurement of school meals would be problematic. The Minister of Finance stated, in his reply, that since under the EU procurement regulations this particular service is an exception, the Minister intends to provide for the purchase of catering services as an exception already in the bill on the new Public Procurement Act of 2005.

According to the SAO, supervision over the use of appropriations for school meals is inadequate. Although the obligation to supervise has been imposed, by several legal acts, on the Ministry of Education and Research, on County Governments as well as local authorities, almost no supervision is currently exercised. Once the payment of appropriations for school meals has been governed by the laws in the field of education, the SAO finds that the duty to monitor rests first of all with the Ministry of Education and Research. The audit did not reveal as if the monies meant for school meals had been used for other purposes.

The provision of school lunch at no charge is established in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, pursuant to which special purpose appropriations in the state budget are allocated to municipal budgets in order to reimburse the cost of school meals for pupils in forms 1 to 4 and for other pupils if appropriate (except the pupils in state-maintained schools whose meals are funded from the state budget). Free school lunch is provided since 2002.

The Government determined that the average cost of a school lunch is 10 kroons per student in 2003 and 10.8 kroons per student in 2004. To this end, EEK 103.4 million were allocated in the state budget in each year.

The purpose of the appropriation is not defined in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, but according to the explanatory report to the Act, the appropriation is aimed at improving children’s health and ensuring them at least once a day a quality meal, which does not hinge on the eating habits of parents.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]

  • Posted: 12/7/2004 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/30/2015 11:11 AM
  • Last Review: 9/30/2015 11:11 AM

More News