KACC report: Charge 8 over schools scandal - Daily Nation

KACC report: Charge 8 over schools scandal

Tuesday February 9 2010

By SAMUEL SIRINGI and NJERI RUGENE

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission wants eight top officials of the Education ministry prosecuted over the loss of Sh103 million.

KACC forwarded the files to Attorney-General Amos Wako, who must approve prosecutions, on Tues afternoon, but officials said they would be handed over soon.

Investigators said the officials wasted public money on fictitious workshops, attended by ghost participants.

Wanton fraud

The eight account for the loss of only Sh34 million but KACC sources said they would investigate the entire free primary education programme.

And although the amounts are small, detectives capture a mindset of such wanton fraud, falsification of documents and corruption, raising questions about accountability of funds in government.

According to a status report, titled “Investigation into Embezzlement of Sh103 Million of the World Bank-funded Kenya Education Sector Support Project (Kessp)”, a copy of which the Daily Nation has seen, the charges recommended will include fraudulent acquisition of public property, theft, and abuse of office, among others.

The Nation is withholding the identities of the officers KACC wants charged to protect their reputation. The AG is not bound by the recommendations of KACC and may decide not to charge them.

The investigation is based on an audit by Treasury and focuses on 434 payments to 21 officials of the Education ministry.

The graft team has been investigating the fraud, which has caused a storm of protest, for two months.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whose job is to supervise government ministries, has asked Education minister Sam Ongeri and permanent secretary Karega Mutahi to step aside to allow for investigations.

Prof Ongeri and Prof Mutahi have defended themselves, saying the fraud involved imprests by individual officers and therefore, there was no need for them to step aside.

Fifty officials of the ministry have been suspended in the scandal, which caused the US and Britain to suspended Sh1.3 billion in aid.

On Tuesday, the anti-corruption commission source said more officers could be charged.

Set me free

Prof Ongeri, reached for comment, said he was not aware of the status of the KACC investigations.

“We should wait for thorough and deep investigations into the matter. Only the truth shall set me free,” he said.

The report shows detectives also found that some of the venues where workshops are said to have been held, belonged to relatives of some of the officials.

The KACC source, who cannot be named discussing an ongoing investigation, said the commission feared that its findings were just the tip of the iceberg and there could be more serious cases of corruption.

The investigation was ordered by President Kibaki late last year after a storm was raised when the theft was reported.

The report seen by the Daily Nation made no mention of either Prof Ongeri and Prof Mutahi, although the pressure for them to quit is based on accountability, not direct involvement in the cases.

All funds lost were meant for the Sh540 billion Kessp, a five-year programme whose first phase ends in June.

According to the KACC documents, one of the officials is alleged to have misappropriated Sh17 million given by the World Bank to conduct workshops in Nyeri, Garissa and Eldoret. The official spent Sh10.7 million alone to run workshops at two venues in Tambach and Kigari.

Most of the funds were embezzled through inflating reimbursements for transport expenses for trainees by between Sh1,000 and Sh4,000.

For example, where a participant was reimbursed Sh200, investigators found, the ministry’s official inflated the figure to Sh2,000.

Cases where they were reimbursed Sh280 would be inflated to Sh2,800 in receipts presented to the Education ministry to justify the expenses.

Another senior official is alleged to have misappropriated Sh5.5 million to hold workshops in Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa.

But the investigators found that receipts used for some of the workshops were forgeries with Kisumu polytechnic, for example, disowning receipts it supposedly issued.

The investigators proposed that the official be charged with fraud for allegedly failing to comply with guidelines on procurement and acquisition of property.

Another senior official is to be charged with misappropriating Sh5 million under the same Kessp programme, also to conduct workshops in Kisumu and Eldoret.

In one case, the official paid out Sh480,000 for accommodation of workshop facilitators at a non-existent hotel in Eldoret.

The official also claimed to have paid out Sh600,000 for workshop participants at Rift Valley Technical Training Institute, when that was not the case.

Last month, anti-corruption detectives searched the homes of 15 Ministry of Education staff members.

One of the suspended officials, Acting Director of Secondary Education Concilia Ondiek has protested her innocence and accused the government of carrying out a public relations gimmick.

The audit alarms were raised in September last year.