Bitter board wars leave college in crisis

Liganwa Vocational Training Centre which is at the heart of a bitter conflict between a non-existent board and management. [File, Standard]

A dispute between the administration and the board of management risks driving Siaya County’s second-largest vocational training centre to an indefinite closure.

The conflict at Liganwa Vocational Training Centre in Alego-Ndere has also sucked in County Education Executive Mary Omondi and Director of Education Peter Otieno.

Ms Omondi has sent the institution’s manager Lilian Otianga on compulsory leave for one month. She has also suspended the board for a similar period of time and appointed Gabriel Mboya as acting manager. 

The genesis of the woes bedevilling the institution can be traced to two protests in March and July when students walked four kilometres from Ndere to Siaya town to petition the removal of Paul Oganga as the chair of the board of management.

The protests have led to a chain of events now threatening the future of the institution, which remained closed for seven years from 1999 after running into financial crisis. Residents fear the same fate may befall it due to the ongoing crisis.

In 2004, the government resumed funding for the institution as the World Bank pumped in Sh2.5 million for procurement of training equipment.

Funds control

As at the end of July, the institution had Sh3.7 million in its accounts. It is this money that various forces within the institution are said to be fighting to control. Impact Kenya, a non-governmental institution based in Siaya, is sponsoring nearly half of all students in the institution in a programme targeting young mothers within Alego-Usonga Constituency.

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As the crisis facing the institution deepens, it is emerging that the board has been operating without any formal appointment letters as required by law.

A petition by a residents association addressed to the office of Siaya governor on August 10 this year raised issues with the way the board was formed. “We the undersigned citizens, residents of North Alego and Central Alego wards, draw the attention of your office to the following maladministration, malfeasance and probable graft within the rank and file of Liganwa Vocational Training Centre board of management,” the petitioners wrote.

Some of the issues they raised include handpicking of the board by Oganga, where two members are drawn from one family. The petitioners further complained that the Catholic Church, which sponsors the institution, is not represented in the board. Oganga declined to comment on these allegations.

According to Omondi, three board members went to her office seeking to close the polytechnic after the strike by students, a request that she declined to grant. Meanwhile, documents seen by Saturday Standard show that the battle for the school could be about tenders.

Three petitions drafted by a board member, students and stakeholders all raise issues relating to conflict of interest.

The petition accuses some board members of allocating themselves tenders through their companies. 

“The chairman made a unilateral decision to sell his own land to the school at a pre-determined price. No procurement procedure was followed,” stated the residents.

A July 7 status report by the county director of education, also outlines the misery facing the institution. His reports tells paints a picture of an institution that is on the verge of collapse.

“The working relationship between the manager and the board has been sour,” Otieno wrote.

The County Assembly Committee on Education has taken the matter up and summoned the different people involved in the conflict for questioning.

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Liganwa Vocational Training CentreMary OmondiPeter Otieno