Magoha's Sh1.9 billion desks drive faces audit questions

Education CS George Magoha with pupils during the delivery of desks at Uhuru Gardens Primary School on October 29, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The supply of desks and lockers to primary and secondary schools during the Covid-19 period has been flagged by the Auditor General.

The project, which cost Sh1.9 billion according to the 2020-21 audit report, was to support school infrastructure to cope with the Ministry of Health’s social distancing requirements.

The State Department for Early Learning and Basic Education had engaged artisans from all the counties to supply 70 desks and 50 lockers to selected secondary and primary schools.

However, Auditor General Nancy Gathungu in her report said the authority to incur expenditure date October 1, 2020, was sent to all 47 counties, but funding was not effected.

According to the report, the actual payments were centralised at the head office using a Safaricom application not prescribed by the National Treasury.

“No explanation was provided for using a private application instead of using IFMIS being the national payment system as per the Public Financial Management Act, 2012,” the report said.

The audit revealed that procurement records to ascertain value for money, quality of suppliers and how uniform prices were arrived at were not provided for audit. 

The report flagged Sh10 million paid to staff from the State Department headquarters as daily subsistence allowances to monitor the distribution of desks and lockers in all counties.

The auditors questioned the rationale of the expenditure when the State Department had officers in all counties with staff who could have been used with minimal or no costs.

The audit further queried the disbursement of infrastructure grants of Sh1.5 billion to secondary schools in the form of economic stimulus funds.

In the report, the audit found there was no documented basis on how the funds were disbursed to schools, the bill of quantified approved by county works officers and approve the plan of the facility to be funded.

The report shows that Sh185 million disbursed to 15 national schools was not supported by the official application and approved budgets for the schools.

Further scrutiny shows two schools had requested Sh6.1 million and Sh4.2 million respectively, but they were awarded Sh10 million. “There was no justification for the enhanced disbursement, as no approved Bills of Quantities and building plans were provided by the applicant.”

Enrolment data

The audit also revealed the Ministry of Education stopped its office from auditing the student enrolment data in the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS)
According to the 2020-2021 audit report released recently, the auditors had set out to verify Sh36.7 Billion, which was disbursed to 9,024 secondary schools during the financial year.
However, the report shows that the number of students by the school in the county at the time of disbursement couldn’t be verified.

“The reason for non-verification was due to inability to access the student enrolment data in the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) as a result of restrictions by the Management,” the report says.

Gathungu adds that the failure to grant access to the system contravened the Public Audit Act, 2015, which gives powers to the Auditor General or an officer authorised under the Act to have unrestricted access. “It was therefore not possible to validate the data used for disbursement of subsidies to schools.”

The report further revealed that Sh137 million disbursed under the free day secondary school was made to 225 secondary schools, whose bank accounts format differed significantly from the format of accounts supported by the national banking system.

Another Sh8.2 million was also found to have been disbursed to schools that had the same bank account numbers, even though the names and sub-county were different.

“The anomaly was not explained, and there was no evidence of refunds provided to indicate the correction of the error.”

The audit questioned Sh22 million paid to 82 secondary schools in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, which was meant to support needy students.

According to the audit, the ministry did not provide documentation to support how the basis of identification of the needy schools.

In the period under review, 1,933 schools which received Sh834 million shared the same Teachers Service Commission (TSC) school identification numbers even though the name of the school and resident sub-counties were different.

Whereas the ministry policy requires schools to have uniquely identifiable bank accounts, Sh2.7 million was found to have been disbursed to 12 primary schools which shared the same bank account numbers in the NEMIS system.

During the year, Sh200 million was paid to a firm for the supply and delivery of 2,040 computers to 200 secondary schools in all 47 counties.

According to the audit, the 2,040 computers were delivered to the State Department’s store and distributed to 200 secondary schools across the 47 counties.

“However, the basis of identification and selection of the benefiting schools was not documented and provided for audit review.”

Furthermore, the department was found to have used an expired framework contract from the State Department of Information, Communication and Technology dated October 07, 2018, which expired on November 07, 2019.

“The Local Purchase Order was issued on September 03, 2020, with a validity period of 30 days. The supply was made on May 25, 2021, which was eight months after the expiry of LPO validity. There was no evidence of extension of LPO validity,” the report added.