, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 28 – The Ministry of Education was on Monday at pains to explain the whereabouts of books worth Sh1.3 billion purchased under the free education program over the last six years.
Education Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi said that the discrepancy could be attributed to normal wear and tear and the 2008 post election violence when a number of schools were torched.
Prof Mutahi strongly denied fraud reports in the procurement of the 5.8 million missing books. The report by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has concluded that the books bought under the program it funds cannot be accounted for.
"When we were starting we worked on a life span of three years for the books and so when you want to imply that between 2003 and 2007 no book has been thrown out then you don’t know what we ‘call drawdown’ on quality," he said.
The report indicates that monies could have been lost through dubious deals; overpricing and collusion by teachers.
"It cannot be overpricing because all the prices are clearly indicated in the records and there cannot be any other price except the one indicated," he said.
Prof Mutahi ordered primary schools heads to submit an audit report within one month of all text books bought since 2003 under the free education program. He directed them to clearly state the pupil-to-book ratio and the condition of the books.
Prof Mutahi also dismissed reports that DFID had pulled out of the program over the missing books and misappropriation of funds for the program. He clarified that the development partner was awaiting investigations over the loss of another Sh83 million at the Kenya Education Sector Support Program, over which Treasury has suspended 25 officials pending investigations.
"The loss will not add up to Sh83 million because there are receipts and other documents to account for part of this monies," he said.
"We were with auditors from the UK government last week and they were contented with how we carry out our things in the ministry."
Since its inception in 2003 over Sh45 billion has been spent to finance free education in the country. With the program the enrollment of pupils stands at 8.1 million. The program is funded by the government with support from donors like DFID. Each child is allocated Sh650 annually for learning materials.
Earlier in the month the ministry had indicated that it would be reducing the allocations of textbooks since a desirable pupil to textbooks ratio had been achieved. According to Prof Mutahi only 4,000 schools were yet to achieve the pupil to book ratio of 1:1.
The PS was speaking while addressing District Education Officers on the preparation of the exam period which starts in three weeks time.