A new report has unearthed massive irregularities in the procurement of textbooks for public schools, with headteachers playing a key role in the racket.
The fraud ranges from forged signatures, delivery of phantom books, overpricing and single-sourcing of suppliers by instructional materials selection committees at the school level.
The confidential report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission —Examination into the Disbursement and Utilisation of Free Primary Education Funds — blames the roles played by heads, school management committees and suppliers for the failure to achieve the 1:1 book-to-pupil ratio.
Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i recently said that though the government allocated Sh10 billion for books in the last three years, most schools did not have the materials.
He estimated that the pupil-to-book ratio stood at 5:1 in primary schools.
The low levels of book stocks in schools despite the billions of shillings spent by the government since free primary education was introduced in 2003 has prompted the ministry to call for a rethink of the supply method.
Dr Matiang’i has invited education stakeholders to propose reforms to ensure textbook supplies are conducted in a transparent way.
The September 2015 EACC report showed that there were cases where the signatures of committee members, chairmen and parents' representatives in the minute books were different from those in the order forms.
“In other cases, the team was informed that only the headteacher signed order forms issued to suppliers,” the report added.
“Differences in [members' signatures] could be indicative of forged transactions and non-involvement of other members.”
The EACC asked Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in collaboration with other agencies to institute investigations on signatures and take necessary action against those found culpable.
The report also revealed that some headteachers identified suppliers without involving school tender committees.
Schools are required to identify booksellers and other suppliers through the committees using guidelines issued by the ministry.
During the investigations, the EACC noted that some of the contracted suppliers were not listed on the recommended list in the orange book.
The orange book is published annually by the ministry and contains a list of approved textbooks per subject.
The investigators found that some headteachers identified suppliers unilaterally.
Others cited proximity to the school as the only criterion used to identify suppliers.
The report also said some schools had retained one supplier for years. The period ranged from four to eight years while at some institutions, a supplier had been retained from the inception of free primary education (FPE) in 2003.
“The explanation provided by most heads was that the ministry delayed disbursing FPE funds and the schools were forced to identify and retain suppliers who were willing to offer the books on credit,” the report went on.
It also said some suppliers delivered alternative books to the ones ordered with the excuse that the texts required were out of stock. “Deliveries are made with [the] concurrence of the head, but without the knowledge of the members,” it added.
There were also cases where suppliers quoted lower prices at the time of submitting quotations but raised prices once they were awarded tenders.
Some schools purchased books not listed in the orange book without the approval of the committee. Other schools procured items on credit issuing verbal instructions to suppliers.
“Forms were completed when the funds were received to facilitate payment,” the report said, adding that the loophole could be exploited to overstate supplies by including items that had not been procured.
The EACC recommended that Dr Kipsang ensure instructions issued to suppliers for procurement of items on credit were properly documented and signed by the headteacher, the management committee chairman and a parents’ representative.
The report said that in some schools, suppliers delivered materials at odd hours when committee members and teachers were not around to receive them.
“Delivered materials are only received by the head and one or two selected members of the committee and it becomes difficult for the rest to ascertain if the materials were delivered as expected,” it went on. “This is a weakness that can allow for payment for undelivered items.”
The report also said some schools received discounts that were paid to headteachers and certain committee members, amounting to conferring benefits at the expense of the schools.”