Controversy over the UK’s withholding of education grants to Kenya deepened Monday with revelations that free primary education may have lost up to Sh6 billion through corruption.
The mega-scandal potentially puts the future of 8.6 million primary school pupils in jeopardy and increases the likelihood of placing the school fees burden on the parents who are already groaning under the weight of heavy taxes and high cost of living.
Also questioned is the whereabouts of Sh3.2 billion meant for infrastructure development in schools under the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme believed to have been channelled to accounts of undeserving schools.
State House has said President Kibaki had ordered a full investigation into the matter.
Kenya National Association of Parents also dug in with calls for the President to take action against education minister Prof Sam Ongeri, permanent secretary Prof Karega Mutahi and Chief Finance Officer in the ministry Alice Ngichu.
“In the eye of the storm are the PS Prof Karega Mutahi and the Chief Finance Officer in the Ministry. These are the two signatories to the free education funds accounts,” said association secretary general Musau Ndunda and chairman Genard Nyaga.
Attempts to reach Prof Mutahi failed as he was said to be in Tunisia on official duty while Ms Ngichu said she was not authorised to speak to the media.
Since FPE started in 2003, the government has released Sh48 billion. However, the Education ministry has not released Sh4.2 billion to primary schools in the last six months thereby crippling learning activities across the country.
An analysis by KNAP shows that the public has been losing an average of Sh92 million every year since the programme was launched in 2003.
The report says that ministry officials have been varying the amounts released to schools and pocketing the difference. Parliament in 2003 approved Sh1,020 per child in primary school yet the ministry has been giving less than this amount.
Save for 2003 when the ministry released Sh1,094 per child the other years have been averaging at Sh900 per child. The difference is unaccounted for.
News of the mega-scandal came to the fore last week after the UK government threatened to withhold funding for the seven-year programme following the misappropriation of Sh100 million.
The money had been budgeted for constructing of new classrooms and buying text books for poor students in poverty ravaged districts.
Already, 25 officers at the ministry have been suspended over the scandal.
However, one of those suspended acting Senior Deputy Director of Education Concellia Ondiek on Monday denied the claims saying she was only but a scapegoat.
Mrs Ondiek said the funds that the UK government had mentioned were meant for primary schools and not secondary schools section which she handles. The British High Commission meanwhile maintains that indeed they are one and the same thing.
She was suspended alongside her two deputies Mr Enos Magwa and a Mr Orwa in September. The Nation learnt their suspension letters were based on a draft report of an internal committee investigating the loss of funds.