NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – A meeting of senior government officials convened to discuss corruption in government took an interesting turn on Friday after Prime Minister Raila Odinga asked President Mwai Kibaki to demand the resignation of Education Minister Sam Ongeri and Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi over the multi million shilling free education funds scandal.
The PM had been invited to make his remarks at the start of a two-day meeting of all Permanent Secretaries, Parastatal Chiefs and Provincial Commissioners summoned by the President to discuss corruption.
Mr Odinga said the over Sh100 million scam had tainted the image of the government and dampened the hopes of many poor Kenyans. He regretted the blame- game between Prof Ongeri and his Permanent Secretary.
“In accordance with this principle of institutional accountability, I have recommended the President to direct the Minister for Education and the Permanent Secretary to step down,” said the PM.
The two have denied responsibility over the scam and passed on the blame to junior officers and even suspended 26 officers.
“Do not pass the buck. Do not blame your subordinates. Do not blame the donors. Do not blame the press. The buck stops with you!”
President Kibaki however steered clear of the scandal choosing to call for “quick action over the vice.”
“As Accounting Officers, you must also lead the fight through your personal integrity. Act urgently to stem corruption,” ordered the President.
He added that transparency and accountability in the Public Service is a critical pillar for government to attain credibility in the eyes of tax-paying Kenyans.
“Quick action on your part will ensure that public funds are not misappropriated,” the Head of State urged.
Prof Ongeri and Prof Mutahi have been under pressure to quit in the recent past after the United Kingdom suspended funding to Kenya’s Free Primary Education Programme following the loss. Details of yet another scam involving the possible loss of text books worth Sh1.4 billion have made the scam messier.
America has also since suspended further funding to the same ministry amounting to Sh500 million over similar accountability concerns.
“Mothers and fathers are told that government officials have been eating those monies that they have been working so hard for but could hardly earn.
They are told by the Minister and the Permanent Secretary that “we did not know about it, so we are not responsible.” People ask how can it be? People do not believe in what the senior officials tell them,” Mr Odinga complained.