Controversy surrounds Uasin Gishu county overseas study programme

Students in Uasin Gishu were facilitated to study at various universities in Finland. [iStockphoto]

The University indicated that it would only continue with second-semester teaching if the fee is received, adding that if March 31 dateline is not honoured, the study programme would be terminated.

According to the University, the information about the terminated right to study will also automatically flow to the Finnish Immigration Service, Migri, through electronic systems, to be followed by cancelling the residence permits and students repatriated back to Kenya.

Students interviewed by The Standard said that they joined Laurea University of Applied Sciences in September last year and had paid more than Sh 1.2 million meant to cater for their first and second semesters. However, after completing the first semester, their classes were disrupted on the grounds that they had not paid their second-semester tuition fees.

"We have been asked to pay an additional Sh500,000 for the second semester, whereas we knew that we had completed paying our first-year fees. Some of us have no jobs yet and coming from humble backgrounds, it will be difficult for our parents to raise the amount," said one of the students.

The county, on the other hand, said that they had made clear communication that the collected amount of money would only cater for their visa applications, six months' accommodation, pathway studies and first semester fees only.

Students said they had contacted the University, asking to be allowed to pay school fees directly to the institution adding that they felt duped by County officers in charge of the programme.

The County has sent a total of 202 students to study at various universities in Finland, including Tampere University (111), Jvaskyla (25), and Laurea (66). Some 182 students have begun the process and were expected to travel to the European country for their studies, 56 among them have even done their first semester online.

Governor Bii stated on Monday that due to the delays in the fee payment, and the lapse of the February 28 deadline, Tampere University decided to end its cooperation with the County.

A report endorsed by the county assembly for consideration days ago, now wants the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), and other relevant agencies to move in and investigate senior county officials accused of alleged forgery, abuse of office.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The report by an ad-hoc committee of the County Assembly revealed that the process was flawed and that money meant for the student's education could have been misappropriated.

The committee led by Mr Gilbert Chepkonga endorsed the recovery of the stolen money to support the students stranded in Finnish universities, especially those who had travelled earlier as soon as the program commenced.

The report states that the Uasin Gishu County Government, under the leadership of former Governor Jackson Mandago, opened the 'Uasin Gishu County Government Overseas Trust Fund' account in Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) for purposes of receiving tuition fees for the students benefiting from the airlift programme.

However, the implementation of the programme is said to have been a highly guarded secret that even County head of Education, Joseph Kurgat, was not privy to any information regarding the opening of the bank account or running of the program despite it being under his docket.

Kurgat said the program was not discussed at the cabinet level, and no policy framework was tabled before the cabinet for approval.

The report stated that there was no formal public participation and that it did not comply with the Public Finance Management Act, hence funds meant for the scholarship were not classified as public money, and it was instead a community engagement based on mutual trust.

The committee also demanded a forensic financial audit of the Uasin Gishu Education Overseas Trust Account at the KCB Eldoret East branch, and that county employees mentioned as beneficiaries of the transactions from the account be suspended pending investigations.