, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – The Attorney General has now approved the immediate arrest and prosecution of seven senior Ministry of Education officials who are implicated in the Sh100 million Free Primary Education Programme scandal.
The instructions to arrest the suspects were issued by the AG to the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission and the police on Thursday afternoon.
“The Attorney General has perused and studied the files sent to him by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission and has agreed with the recommendation therein. He has already given the police and KACC officers the go-ahead to arrest and immediately file charges against seven officers in the Ministry,” a source at his office said.
The anti graft agency had implicated the officials in the fraudulent expenditure of the funds meant for use under the FPE programme in its probe.
According to sources at the AG’s office, the officials are due to appear in court on Friday morning.
The decision to charge the senior officers who directly handled the cash came hours after Education Minister Prof Sam Ongeri and his Permanent Secretary Professor Karega Mutahi faced questioning by the Parliamentary Committee on Education.
Both maintained their innocence over the misappropriated cash meant for Free Primary Education.
Prof Ongeri told the Parliamentary Committee that he took action after learning that the funds were misused by suspending ministry officials who had irregularly acquired imprests in June last year.
“As I am talking to you now this is a matter that rests with the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority. I don’t know the fate of it and I have no way of knowing the fate of it. This ministry has done what I think it ought to have done within its own mandate and pushed the matter to another agency which has the mandate to investigate this matter,” Prof Ongeri said.
The PS on his part said he never signed any documents that led to the irregular transactions in the training programme.
“Anybody who took money of that magnitude must have taken money that he or she ought not to have taken because if it included service delivery by a service provider or include procurement of good that was irregular,” he said.
The Education Minister expressed confidence that donors would resume funding of programmes under the FPE by June.
He told the Committee that the donors had assured him of resumption of funding if they restructured their governance arrangements to seal the loopholes exposed through the scandal as well as ensure that action was taken against the culprits.
He further said that other conditions by the donors included that the government refund the funds lost to which Treasury had given a commitment of doing.
Five people had been absolved of any blame over the matter while another 15 were being probed.
The Ministry of Education has been in a spot since last December, when UK officials suspended funding citing the loss of about Sh100 million meant to fund education.
President Kibaki last December ordered the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) to investigate the scandal, with the anti-graft body promising a report by mid-last month. The report is still being awaited.
On Thursday, Prof Ongeri said a validation report commissioned by the Ministry showed that the government lost Sh91 million in the scandal and not Sh100 million as reported in the media.
The two officials found themselves in more trouble as they were probed on why they authorised the expenditure such large sums within two months.
Committee Chairman David Koech and F.T Nyammo disagreed with Prof Mutahi and Prof Ongeri who had told the Committee that they took the measure in order to avoid the funds reverting back to Treasury. They blamed late disbursement by donors for the programme that was meant for March.
The Committee is expected to meet with DFID officials and other donors before tabling the report in Parliament.