Serving inedible products to children! What meals are offered in school cantinas in Siberia, and who benefits from this?
Schools and preschool institutions in Kemerovo and Novosibirsk regions are inundated with low-quality food products supplied at artificially high prices with support of local education officials.
When it comes to schools and kindergartens, the quality of education is the most frequently-discussed topic. A more mundane aspect – quality of school meals – is addressed pretty rarely. In the meantime, the quality of foods supplied to children is worsening with alarming pace. Schools and preschool institutions in Kemerovo and Novosibirsk regions are inundated with low-quality food products supplied at artificially high prices with support of local education officials.
Siberian media report drastic price hikes on meals in Novokuznetsk schools and kindergartens on the regular basis. A flow of complaints by parents has resulted in audits and even dismissals – but the meals haven’t become better. The origin of the issue is a complicated scheme of school meals provision, which is based on family ties.
The heart of this system is Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) Municipal Budgetary Institution that acquires products for education institutions. In the end of 2015 Stanislav Karpov, a member of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia, has submitted to the Municipal Administration a letter describing flagrant violations committed by Kombinat Pitania. Most contracts had been awarded by the Municipal Budgetary Institution without any contests and at artificially high prices exceeding even the retail ones. The total amount of contracts signed with violations of the legislation exceeded 190 million rubles; there were thousands of such contracts. There were also many cases when an existing contract was terminated “on the mutual consent of the parties”, and then a new agreement signed with another supplier – whose prices were always higher.
The scheme was running smoothly like a clockwork, – because it was controlled by members of the same family. Yuri Baranov was the Director of Kombinat Pitania, while his wife Inna Misyakova was the Chairperson of the Committee for Education and Science of the Novokuznetsk Municipal Administration. Two Kombinat Pitania suppliers, out of the ten, whose prices always were artificially high – Akademia Sna (Academy of Sleep) and BelkProkTrade – were likely affiliated with Baranov. This is a possible explanation why the Committee for Education and Science not only had never expressed interest towards operations of Kombinat Pitania, but haven’t even developed a mechanism to control violations in the education institutions. Despite an attempt by the Novokuznetsk Municipal Administration to ignore the unpleasant facts, an audit has been performed and confirmed virtually all violations reported by Karpov. Ultimately, the opportunistic spouses Baranov and Misyakova have been dismissed.
Photo: Viktor Smirnov, Chairman of the Kemerovo Regional Public Organization Center for Socio-Economic Development of the Population
A few months after the scandal, the situation with school meals had become really critical. Not only were the foods expensive, but also dangerous for life. Viktor Smirnov, the Chairman of the Kemerovo Regional Public Organization Center for Socio-Economic Development of the Population (KRPO CSEDP), in his letter to the Novokuznetsk Mayor, has listed facts of substandard and counterfeit product supplies to education institutions that had occurred after the above-mentioned audit. The substandard products were supplied by the same discredited providers: Ariadna and Kolbasnaya Familiya (Sausage Family). Products supplied by both companies do not stand up to any scrutiny. Sausages from Kolbasnaya Familiya have weird meat spread consistency, while Ariadna had supplied cheap margarine to schools and kindergartens in the first quarter of 2016 – instead of butter required by the State Standard. Marso company, a supplier of sugar, has delayed the shipment by a whole month. During this period, children were offered hardly-edible foods and tea without sugar. We would like to note that this contract is not displayed on the governmental acquisitions web portal. The supplier, most likely, would escape liability because Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) Municipal Budgetary Institution is still lacking a legal department.
Sergey Kuznetsov, the Novokuznetsk Mayor, has imperturbably responded to the letter from Viktor Smirnov listing the violations: audits of Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) Municipal Budgetary Institution are being conducted and will be continued. The Mayor did not even try to conceal the fact that law enforcement authorities do not react to such violations. To make sure that further audits do not cause any issues, it was decided not to include Viktor Smirnov, Chairman of the Kemerovo Regional Public Organization Center for Socio-Economic Development of the Population, into the commission for control of acquisitions.
Response from the Novokuznetsk Mayor to the Chairman of the KRPO CSEDP
Stability is an indication of nepotism
So why the unacceptable situation still exists and nothing is changing? Of course, because of continuous efforts by the Committee for Education and Science of the Novokuznetsk Municipal Administration. As said earlier, for the whole period of its existence, the institution has failed to create a food quality control system for schools and kindergartens. Almost all the 25 members of the Committee are too busy arranging good jobs for their relatives and friends in these schools and kindergartens.
For example, Anastasia Bender, a Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education and Science of the Novokuznetsk Municipal Administration, is a daughter of Elza Bender, the Director of the Children’s Art Center № 2 of Novokuznetsk. Nadezhda Rudakova, another Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for Education and Science, is a sister of Larisa Rudakova, the Director of the Kindergarten № 44. Also, according to Viktor Smirnov, the Chairman of the KRPO CSEDP, Vladimir Deriglazov, the Senior Specialist–Legal Advisor of the Committee, is husband of Elena Efimova, the Principal of the Kindergarten № 101; Galina Belova, a Senior Specialist in the Department of General and Extended Education of the Committee for Education and Science, is mother-in-law to Konstantin Vasyuchenko, the Director of General Secondary School № 71; and M.A. Bayandina, Deputy Director of Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) Municipal Budgetary Institution, is wife of the Director and co-owner of Lilith company – which is one of the ten above-mentioned providers supplying products to Kombinat Pitania at overcharged prices.
Of course, not every person can manage a school or kindergarten – after all, this is a pedagogical job. In order to provide employment to those who do not like pedagogics, another municipal Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) has been established in Novokuznetsk. Its Director is Lyubov Biryukova who combines this post with the Chief Specialist position in the Kombinat Pitania Municipal Budgetary Institution. The institution exists slightly longer than a year, but the Municipality has already started its reorganization. During this period, Kombinat Pitania Municipal Budgetary Institution, whose charter capital is 3.6 million rubles, had been absolutely identical to its namesake. To the moment, Kombinat Pitania Municipal Budgetary Institution has conducted only 14 tenders. At the same time, the Arbitration Court Archive includes a lawsuit by Mitmarka Limited Liability Company against Kombinat Pitania Municipal Budgetary Institution claiming over 200 thousand rubles. The commercial company managed to recover the debt from the Municipal Budgetary Institution in accordance with their contract – which was signed omitting any contest procedures. Apparently, this is not the only example of such non-competitive contracts.
Abbreviate of the Arbitration Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Mitmarka Limited Liability Company
A food supply system of the second freshness category
The businessmen have been acting especially cynically in Novosibirsk. The system of interactions between the officials and suppliers was exactly replicated here. Kombinat Pitania (Food Factory) Municipal Autonomous Institution of Novosibirsk makes the acquisitions and has its own list of favorite suppliers. These include Rikom, Atlantis, and Adaman companies. More than 1,500 contracts had been awarded without contests – the Prosecutor’s Office of the Novosibirsk Region has confirmed this. Furthermore, in Novosibirsk, not only do the entrepreneurs make good money on children, but also poison them.
Response from the Prosecutor’s Office of the Novosibirsk Region to Evgeny Mitrofanov with regards to acquisitions by Kombinat Pitania Municipal Autonomous Institution
This spring, Evgeny Mitrofanov, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Novosibirsk Region, and Yakov Novoselov, the Director of the Non-Commercial Partnership Siberian Federal Center of Healthy Nutrition have initiated an expert assessment of meals in schools and kindergartens of the city. Counterfeit, substandard, and expired products had been found everywhere. Products containing vegetable fats were used instead of butter and milk; cereals rather looked like livestock forage; while the frozen chicken was spiced with phosphates and ice. According to experts, this menu could lead to endocrine diseases, iron deficiency anemia, immune deficiency disorders, etc. With such breakfasts and lunches, the children would get a whole bunch of illnesses before they receive their high school diplomas.
We would like to note that issues with school meals have started in Novosibirsk a long time ago. Back in 2012 the Civic Patrol Fund (currently the Foundation for Consumer Protection), following complaints from parents, had audited the General Secondary School № 115 of Novosibirsk. In addition to the terrible condition of the food unit, the activists have found artificially high prices on products. The food supplier for the school at that time was Kombinat Pitania Municipal Autonomous Institution of Novosibirsk. In 2014 the federal media reported a mass poisoning of children in the General Secondary School № 211 of Novosibirsk. The disease was caused by Staphylococcus aureus found in the cheese. The Director of Kombinat Pitania was dismissed after this incident – but nothing has really changed in its work in the next two years. We would like to note that dairy products have also caused most complaints during the most recent expert assessment in 2016.
It is more than likely that similar business schemes are being run in other regions of Russia as well.