Millions in Education Money Stolen in Kenya
Cathy Majtenyi | Nairobi
February 23, 2012
Kenya's education sector continues to suffer fallout from the theft of
millions of dollars two years ago from a government program that, among
other things, funds the country's Free Primary Education initiative.
Overcrowded classrooms and fragmented programs are some of the results of
the theft, cases of which are still in court.
The Kenya Education Support Sector Program was launched with much fanfare in
2005. The $5.8 billion program promised to make basic education available
to everyone, improve the quality of that education, increase opportunities
for post-secondary education, and train education managers.
theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P087479> World Bank, Britain's
Department for International Development, or DFID, the Canadian
International Development Agency, and the U.N.'s children's agency threw
their support behind the program. DFID, for instance, kicked in more than
But trouble started brewing towards the end of 2009 with rumors of massive
fraud in the Ministry of Education and the entire school system. By early
2010, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission had compiled a list of some 40
education officials suspected of theft, with a handful already appearing in
Nicholas Simani, public relations officer at the Kenya Anti-Corruption
Commission, says investigations and court cases are still going on today.
"Some of the witnesses are not turning up; some of the witnesses have
changed their mind," he said. "We do not know whether they have been coerced
into changing their mind or they have given up. Some of the witnesses have
just disappeared. The more we talk about certain cases in specifics, we are
finding that the documentations are disappearing, which means the
individuals who are involved are either destroying them or not making them
not be available to us."
Last June, the Ministry of Finance released the results of its forensic
audit. It says that a total of $54.9 million had been misappropriated.
About half of that was money meant to build schools in disadvantaged areas
of the country such as arid/semi-arid lands and urban slums.
As details of the massive fraud emerged, all of the donors pulled out. A
statement from the British High Commission in early 2010 announced the end
of DFID's funding for the Kenya Education Support Sector Program. The
statement said DFID would allocate $27.4 million in its 2010-2011 budget for
education in Kenya but would disperse the money independent of any
And that further erodes the quality of education, says Sara Ruto, regional
manager of Uwezo East Africa, a program to improve literacy and math skills
among children in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. She says the whole point of
the Kenya Education Support Sector Program was to come up with a holistic,
unified vision and plans for the entire Kenyan education system.
"We are going back to the former pattern of fragmented funding, that
somebody decides on a project of choice to them. So you have people doing
small things here and there and maybe they are not even talking to each
other. Non-state actors have often gone for what is visible. You can
easily account for a building [more] than accounting for soft issues like
training," said Sara Ruto.
The Kenyan government has reimbursed donors for the fraud using taxpayers'
money, a move that riles Mwalimu Mati, head of the government watchdog Mars
He recalls the government's promise several years ago to hire primary school
teachers in order to reduce classroom sizes - which in some cases are up to
100 students per classroom - and the subsequent teachers' strike when this
was not done.
"So when they went on strike, they were asking for the hiring of about
20,000 new teachers and the conversion of some of the teachers who were on
contract to permanent terms," said Mati. "The total package for that bill
was going to be just over four billion shillings ($47.7 million). I think
if we are refunding two-and-a-half billion shillings [$29.8 million], we are
basically making it very difficult for the government to be able to hire
these new teachers."
Mati says the Finance Ministry is not saying anything about recovering the
money from those prosecuted for the crimes. He says that, by using public
coffers to reimburse donors, the government, in his words, "makes the
taxpayer liable to pay for stolen funds."
Students, first victims of corruption
Sources interviewed by VOA listed many other impacts of the corruption. The
Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission's Simani says corruption harms students the
"Two hundred thousand kids cannot make it to Form One, to secondary
[school]," said Simani. "What is going to happen to 200,000 children? They
are just going to be running around? There is no other system to channel
them in. There is need to look at the entire education system. Because of
corruption, this has limited the choices for these 200,000 people to enter
Uwezo East Africa's Ruto calls it a "vicious cycle," where teachers
sometimes do not show up for class because they are demotivated by the
corruption of their headmasters.
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Received on Thu Feb 23 2012 - 14:05:37 EST