Tender fights can hurt children's rights

10 June 2015 - 18:42 By Bongekile Macupe

Tender disputes that end up in lengthy court cases undermine the constitutional rights of children. This observation came out of a round-table discussion by the South African Human Rights Commission on how business practices impact on the rights of children held in Killarney‚ Johannesburg‚ today.Speaking during the discussions‚ Ann Skelton of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria said often children are deprived of essential goods or services because of tender disputes.Skelton said tender processes were there to ensure proper accountability of government departments when it comes to procuring goods and services. “But frequently these tenders become disputed and are subject of court applications”.“So what we have here on the one hand is the right of children to receive goods and services against the right of businesses to a fair and just procurement process ... (A flawed process) causes immense delays and as a result of that children are sitting not receiving services that government originally set out to provide to them‚” she said.Skelton said many of these cases are those where school furniture or stationery was not being delivered to schools because of tender disputes.Recently‚ a tender submission box for school nutrition was bombed in Limpopo in what is suspected to be dirty competition surrounding the multi-million tender in the province. But the provincial department of education said the incident would not affect the delivery of food at schools.Andre Viviers from Unicef said‚ as a way of ensuring that children are not disadvantaged by tender processes‚ government should consider making it a requirement for companies to comply with the child rights and business principles before they could be considered for business.“Very often services or goods are procured for children from companies...It would be wonderful to say a requirement from government is that if you're going to tender you should comply with the children's rights and business principles‚” said Viviers.The children's rights and business principles by Unicef‚ United Nations Global Compact‚ and Save the Children were developed in consultation with child rights experts‚ government‚ children and business experts.Some of the ten principles are that: businesses must respect children's rights‚ contribute to elimination of child labour‚ provide work for young workers‚ parents and caregivers and ensure that products and services are safe.Also speaking at the discussion‚ Khanya Mncwabe of Business and Human Rights Resource Centre‚ said companies must think of the underlying consequences when laying off workers and must provide long-term support to the children that have been affected by the decision.“When a poor business strategy is used to lay off workers it has a spin-off effect‚ you're not just laying off workers‚ you're laying off parents‚ caregivers and providers‚” said Mncwabe. “There has to be an acknowledgement by businesses that measures need to be taken to provide for the socio-social support of the children who are impacted by business decisions and also for longer term initiatives.”She said some of these initiatives can include long-term educational funds established for the children affected.- Sowetan, RDM News Wire..

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