NCS slashes special menu by N$3.9m

By Confidente Reporter

AILING prisoners who enjoyed a variety of food items prescribed by their private medical doctors under the guise of ‘appropriate diet’, have been dealt a huge blow after the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS) cut its spending on special diets.

The NCS recently slashed its special diet budget for about 1 024 inmates with various health conditions by approximately 50 percent, amassing savings totalling N$3.9 million monthly.

NCS commissioner-general Raphael Hamunyela said the slash comes after it was discovered that various medical doctors prescribed several types of food their individual offenders preferred to eat.  He noted this was uncontrollable and gobbled a huge chunk of the NCS’ operational budget due to the absence of a menu that accommodated all types of sicknesses.

So desperate was the situation that the NCS tasked a senior dietician from the Ministry of Health and Social Services to revise and amend the N$8.4 million a month old menu that catered for 4 400 prisoners on average across 14 correctional facilities countrywide.

With the implementation of the new menu that accommodates all possible diseases and came into effect February 1, the NCS now spends roughly N$4.5 million monthly.

Currently, the NCS houses about 3 562 offenders of which 37 are diabetic, 778 are on a high protein diet, 163 suffer from allergies, 45 for gastritis and a renal patient.

Hamunyela noted that offenders dragging the NCS to court over special diets was also reason  to have the menu revised .

“We had a situation where offenders requested to have a litre of milk, special types of bread and several eggs in a day.  This was unrealistic and costly.  We then reviewed our menu to accommodate every type of sickness.

“One of the main reasons for the new dietary menu was to ensure proper management of the budget on food, while ensuring that offenders are provided with a nutritionally balanced diet and also to have a menu that conforms to the balance of a good health model.”

Food mostly excluded from the new menu include breakfast stew, fish, chicken, curry, pepper, vinegar and cooking oil.

“Curry, pepper, vinegar and cooking oil were excluded because they do not carry any nutritional value. Meanwhile, the breakfast stew, fish and chicken were replaced by pork and red meat.  With the implementation of the revised dietary menu with effect from 1st of February 2020, individual prescriptions from medical doctors will no longer be accepted,” Hamunyela said.

A report on the revision exercise found that prescription of food by doctors was not controlled.  “…It was on discretion of the doctor yet the same offender(s) was issued a normal diet.  This means a sick offender used to receive a double portion.

“The old menu had a long list of items but did not include prescription diet, so it was open to the doctor and patient (offender) to include any type of food the patient wants to eat instead of a prescribed menu like medicine.

“Calculations and comparisons were made for both old and new menus.  New menu was found to be cheaper than the old menu, almost half price of the old menu.  The old menu had more items than the new menu.”

The report which also made a comparison on the two menus using average market related prices, showed that the NCS spent N$56,30 daily for each offender and N$1 745,30 monthly on a normal diet. This came down to N$29,81 and N$924,11 respectively under the revised menu for 3 562 offenders. This translates to over N$6.2 million monthly before revision and N$3.2 million a month after revision, a saving of N$2.9 million.  Under this menu, offenders were previously offered 22 food items which were reduced to 12 items owing to the exclusion of curry powder, pepper, vinegar, breakfast stew, fish and jam amongst others.

Under the high protein diet that is catered to 778 offenders, the NCS spent N$72,31 daily and N$2 241,61 monthly for 24 food items per offender.  This was cut down to 14 items after revision, translating to N$40,02 daily and N$1 240,62 monthly.  This saw the NCS part ways with N$1.7 million monthly before revision.  This came to N$965 202,36 after revision, a saving of N$778 770,20.

For the diabetic diet, 37 offenders were initially served 24 food items that cost N$72,31 daily and N$2 241,61 monthly per offender.  After revision, food items were reduced to 12 translating to N$34,18 daily and N$1 059,58 monthly per offender.  Before revision, the NCS spent N$82 939,59 monthly and N$39 204,46 after revision saving N$43 735,11.

Meanwhile, 163 offenders that suffer from allergies were offered 22 food items that cost N$61.18 daily and N$1 896,58 monthly per offender.  This translated to N$309 142,54 for 163 offenders monthly.  Under revision however, the cost came to N$42,44 daily, N$1 315,63 monthly and N$214 449,32 respectively saving N$94 693,22.

Under the renal diet which only caters for one offender, the NCS provided 21 items at N$65,20 daily and N$2 021,20 monthly.  After revision, this came down to N$30,49 daily and N$945,19 monthly for 11 food items.  This is a saving of N$1 071,01.

For 45 gastritis patients, the NCS spent N$67,99 daily and N$2 107,69 monthly per offender for 22 food items, translating to N$94 846,05 monthly.  After revision, this dropped to N$32,27 daily and N$1 000,37 monthly, saving N$49 829,40.

Hamunyela however noted that what is yet to be determined is if one offender falls in more than one sickness, which diet is to be issued to the patient.