Report reveals embezzlement of scholarship funds by Uasin Gishu County staff

When former Kesses Mp Swarup Mishrah handed over bursary cheques to primary and secondary schools worth Sh32.6 million at Hill School primary school in Uasin Gishu County on July 29, 2021. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

A report by Uasin Gishu County Assembly has unearthed the misappropriation of over Sh50 million meant for support students undertaking various courses in Finland.

An ad hoc committee of the assembly investigated claims by parents, who had sent their children to Finland last year under a scholarship scheme promoted by the county.

However, the committee found several instances of unjustified withdrawals by some county staff running into millions of shillings from a bank account set up to receive funds from parents.

In its recommendations, the ad hoc committee wants all county staff adversely mentioned and who benefited from the Uasin Gishu education overseas trust account suspended pending investigations and forensic audit.

The committee has further called on Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate three county staff, who are alleged to have received transacted than Sh50 million from the trust accounts.

They observed that the programme, which was initiated during the administration of former Governor Jackson Mandago was neither a scholarship nor a county government programme.

Former education Executive Joseph Kurgat told the committee the programme was not discussed at cabinet and no policy framework was tabled for approval.

The committee was shocked to learn from Joel Ruto, the Director Uasin Gishu County Education Revolving Fund, that he was sidelined, and his subordinate staff selected to run the overseas programme did not take instructions from him.

"He was even surprised to learn from social media that at some point they were overseas on matters of the programme without his knowledge, permission or recommendation. This is despite the fact he is a trustee of the Trust and a signatory of the trust account," the report noted.

The ad hoc Committee was not furnished with any evidence that the opening of the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust Account was done in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Public Finance Management Act.

According to the report, many people who were convinced the program was backed by the county applied, as the county administration was involved and the publicity done using county resources.

However, the ad hoc committee established that parents were later informed the program was self-sponsored and many were then forced to dispose assets and hold harambees to enable their sons and daughters study abroad.

"Parents were made to believe that they were required to pay fees only for the first semester because once the students settled they would be able to work and sponsor themselves," the report notes.

The county attorney Stephen Lel was found to have failed to give proper advisory on the legality of the programme despite drafting the memorandum of understanding between the county and Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

"He also failed to properly advise the county government on the consequences of using its official logo for a non-County program. He further allowed against his better judgement for the County Government to mislead the universities in Finland that the County Government was sponsoring the students when the truth is, it is not," the report found.

Four trustees, who were purported to have been appointed to oversee the program, told the committee no official meeting was held to elect an official of the trust, open a bank account of the fund and to elect signatories to the fund.

"The Trust Account signatories did not follow due procedure in the opening of the Fund account by failing to provide to the Bank with the duly registered Trust deed and genuine minutes of the meeting held by the Trustees resolving to open a bank Account," the committee observed.

The committee directed Cornelius Kiplagat, the CEO Maxglobal Group, to refund Sh267,599.50 paid to him out of the Uasin Gishu Overseas Education Trust and any other money received as a token.

Kiplagat while testifying before the committee had revealed that there was no MOU between the agency and the county and hence could not charge agency fees.

The assembly also wants the county executive to suspend a similar programme with other countries like Canada until proper policy framework is put in place.

Five parents William Koech, Mary Kiptoo, Barnabas Murei, Sarah Koech and Violet Koros testified before the committee that on May 5, 2021 they saw an advert on Finland Scholarship programme which was in conjunction with Uasin Gishu county government.

Interested students were required to send applications to department of youth and sports and were later called for interviews after they parted with Sh6,500.

The parents testified that successful students were issued with letters to join Tampere university in Finland and were required to pay school fees of 8,650 Euros (Sh1.19 million).

Other costs included - Sh80,000 accommodation or three months, Sh30,000 for insurance, Sh49,000 for Visa, Sh5,000 for Covid-19 test and Sh100,000 for flight.

The parents complained that they were not furnished with the contents of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the county government and Tampere University in Finland.

Further details of fees structure from the university were not disclosed as well.