, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 16 – Britain has now side-stepped the Kenyan government over funding of the free primary education programme and will instead release Sh2.3 billion through non-governmental organisations.
The disbursement is now expected to begin in April.
The UK also maintains that it will not disburse the funds through the government until it substantially reduces the risks of fraud saying it is not satisfied by steps taken thus far to warrant a resumption of funding.
“We are going to switch our funding from the government to other channels. We have £20 million which is about a quarter of our total aid budget for Kenya allocated to education and we plan to disburse the same amount of money. We’ll be looking at a number of different methods directly to schools, paying for textbooks, helping the poor and most vulnerable children,” Department for International Development (DfID) Head Alistair Fernie said.
He said the government was yet to reimburse the Sh230 million that was stolen from the free primary education kitty. He further added that plans by government to return these funds through its Supplementary Budget were underway although they would hurt the Kenyan tax payer.
He also said the UK would start investing in mechanisms to empower Kenyans at the grassroots level to put checks and balances on government’s spending of public resources.
“How much money is coming into a school, what it gets spent on…there is a process at the moment for school management committees to try and scrutinise that. It clearly hasn’t been working because there are obviously problems in a number of schools so we’d like to invest the money in improving the accountability at local levels, parents, local media organisations and civil societies to hold the government to account,” he said.
The DfID head who also noted that education funding from the UK had been going directly to government since 2005 to September 2009 further rubbished remarks by the Education Minister Sam Ongeri that the education scandal was a fabrication of the media. He said the education funds’ con was unearthed by government and not media or any other institution.
“The scam was not uncovered by donors. It was uncovered by the Internal Audit department in the Ministry of Finance; by government of Kenya civil servants. And the government has sent us a report saying about Sh229.5 million cannot be accounted for. That’s a serious amount of money and it deserves serious investigation and serious follow up action,” he said.
He added that the prosecution of 12 education officials was laudable but said the government needed to stop paying lip service in fighting graft.
“We are disappointed at the speed of response given that it has been almost six months since the allegations were first made. We’ve heard a lot of good things from very senior people in government including the President. What we need to now see is action to address these problems,” he said and added that taxpayers’ money needed to be spent in honest ways.
“Taxpayers’ money is what is financing the majority of Kenyan schools so there is need to ensure that it is being spent on what taxpayers want it spent on.”
Mr Fernie also called for more investigations into some of the grants that were made to schools around the post election violence period saying they had so far not been properly accounted for. He added that there were a variety of problems in the Ministry of Education which needed to be urgently resolved.
“The way imprests are being managed, advances are being given to staff, and fraudulent events are being handled. There needs to be a tighter culture of control within the ministry. We are discussing with the government how to turn this draft action plan into a final action plan that they can implement,” he said and maintained that the UK would not walk away from government but would continue trying to help it break its ranks with impunity and corruption.
Rob Macaire, British High Commissioner to Kenya also said that corruption scandals in the maize, education, oil and local government sectors was not good as they directly impacted on the lives of Kenyans. He said that recent instructions from the two Kenyan principals on fighting graft showed that Kenya was willing to tackle it.
“But there needs to be a change in attitudes. The Government has the opportunity now to show it is serious in tackling corruption, not just in education but across all sectors, and back up its words with action. To stamp out the theft of public money, this action must include ensuring all those who steal are held accountable, including through prosecutions. And not just those with their hands in the till – those who are responsible for preventing such fraud and who fail to act should also be held to account,” he said.
The UK was one of the four partners (others are World Bank, Canada and UNICEF) who had been providing ‘pooled’ funding directly through the government to the Kenya Education Sector Support Programme (KESSP). DfID announced support of £55 million (Sh7 billion) over five years (2005 – 2010) to KESSP. This included Sh5.8 billion direct to KESSP and Sh582 million for technical assistance managed by DFID. An additional grant of Sh582 million was agreed in 2009 to specifically target improving water/sanitation facilities for the poorest schools. No funding has been disbursed since the Kenyan Government announced discovery of fraud in September 2009.