Government agencies including the anti-graft agency were informed about the rampant examination cheating but failed to follow up, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i revealed to MPs on Tuesday.
Dr Matiang’i made the admission as he was taken to task by MPs over the ministry’s attempts to reform the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) in the wake of the countrywide cheating in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) examinations.
MPs who attended the meeting said the minister mentioned the existence of a cartel operated by members of an unnamed community as being the culprits behind leakages of examination materials.
“We are very optimistic as a committee about the nine who were arrested on Thursday. But we are also hoping that there are several other people (who will be arrested), be it headteachers or students,” said Education Committee chairman Sabina Chege.
The minister told the committee that a special team would scrutinise the cancelled results and handle the appeals of affected candidates.
In addition, the Education CS said sending home the entire Knec board and nine top examination officers over exam leakages was part of "radical surgery".
However, Dr Matiang’i also faced tough questions, with MPs emerging from the morning meeting at County Hall divided on whether his answers and explanations were satisfactory and what ought to be done.
The Cabinet secretary had asked the committee to exclude the press and the public from the meeting and when he emerged from the closed-door meeting, he declined to talk to journalists.
“The meeting was closed because the investigations are ongoing and public disclosures would likely affect the process,” said Ms Chege.
When Mbooni MP Michael Kisoi sought to have the meeting opened on the basis that most of the information about the exam irregularities was in the public domain, the committee chairman resisted the attempt.
But the MP who made the query that took the minister to Parliament, Ford Kenya’s Chris Wamalwa, said Dr Matiang’i’s answers were not satisfactory regarding why the KCSE examination results of 5,101 candidates had been cancelled.
“He has not given us what was the clear basis for the cancellation of the results. Those 5,000 are the victims but in the real sense, there is no criteria on which their results were cancelled,” said Mr Wamalwa after the meeting.
The Kiminini MP described the minister's responses as a public relations exercise and advised the candidates whose results were cancelled to seek redress in the courts.
Mr Wamalwa and Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba argued that it would have been better to cancel the entire results and have the candidates retake the examinations rather than “victimising” the 5,101.
Ms Chege said the CS had stressed the need for support from other government agencies involved in getting to the bottom of the leakages such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
“We are hoping that this year, 2016, the exams that are going to be administered will be above par,” she added.
The committee, however, opposed the idea of cancelling all results as it would not be fair to those who did not cheat.
Ms Chege said the committee was happy with his responses to the queries and would support investigations into the cheating and the arrest of suspects.
Nevertheless, Mr Namwamba called for an independent forensic audit of the operations of Knec and the 2015 examinations and distribution systems.
“There is no justification why the minister can proceed to make decisions and to do what he is calling ... drastic surgery of Knec based on the recommendations of the same discredited Knec. The minister must go beyond the mere scratching of the surface. He must go right to the bone marrow,” said the Budalang'i MP.
He said the committee was told that foreign universities are beginning to question the credibility of KCSE certificates.