Finland scholarship saga: Recruitment agency denies conning 8,000 job seekers

The Agency Director explained that after the notification they advertised for the short term jobs and started registration of the candidates after which they underwent medical tests, submitted their documents, were scheduled for interviews, E- visa application and then deployment.

Jepchirchir told the committee that they managed to register 2,011 candidates for the Fifa World Cup jobs of which they managed to deploy 827 individuals while 189 were deployed to European Security Services and303 were sent to Al Saraiya Security Services with 51 deployed to optimize security.

She noted that 226 applicants were sent to Living Adventure to work in hotels as room attendants, linen attendants, receptionists, floor supervisors, store supervisors and bellmen while 58 candidates were deployed to Aamal cleaners.

"I would like to inform this Senate committee that out of the 827 candidates that we deployed for the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, 718 of them are already back in the country after the completion of their contracts while 109 are still in Qatar under long term two years' contract," said Jepchirchir.

The Agency Director told the committee that they had 1,184 unsuccessful candidates and so far 396 have received refunds while 358 have since transferred to two-year program to Qatar and other destinations while 328 others are waiting for their due date to collect their refund with only 102 candidates undecided on their next step.

"The reasons for unsuccessful applications were high influx of people to Qatar from different parts of the world causing delays in Visa processing while some unsuccessful candidates failed the medical test required by the employers, while others did not have their passports ready for travel," said Jepchirchir.

She revealed that on December 28 last year they issued a communication notifying all the unsuccessful candidates and whose statuses have not changed to visit their new offices to chart the way forward with several options on the table for them.

Jepchirchir said that one of the options for the unsuccessful applicants was for them to change to a two-year contract, travel to other destinations including Poland, Dubai, Lithuania, Turkey or wait for any arising opportunity of their choice.

She revealed that the applicants also had an option of collecting their documents and apply for the refund under the company's terms and conditions or transfer their funds to their siblings of friends who are candidates and are in the process of deployment.

"Regardless of the disruptions and untrue negative publicity labelled against our company by our competitors and people with ill motives, we are committed to serve all our clients with dedication and all our staff and stakeholders have their hands on deck and have started to rebuild our name," she said.

Representatives of the youths who appeared before the committee last month claimed that the agency gave them false hopes of a bright future and they were conned between Sh40,400 and 150,000 each by a consultancy firm that claimed it could assist them move abroad for jobs or studies.

Kimutai Kirui, a human rights activist from the Centre Against Torture told the committee that most victims who are vocal against the plight of their colleagues were now living in fear having been threatened with dire consequence by those behind the rip-off.

"I was offered Sh400,000 to stop pursuing this matter and when I declined I got threats against my life, I was forced to move out of Eldoret for my safety and call upon the Senate to ensure that the at least 8,000 youths whose lives have been ruined get justice," he claimed.

The representatives of the victims said they learnt of First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy Agency when Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago and Prominent Businessman David Lagat attended its launch in May 20, 2021, through roadshows and social media platforms.

The committee was informed that the agency had promised to assist the youths get studies and job opportunities in Qatar, Poland, Finland and Britain and their travel and academic documents were retained after they later discovered that they had been duped.

Lawrence Nzuki, one of the victims who completed his studies at Kisii University in 2019 told the committee that he looked forward to a job opportunity in Finland and also a chance to study for a Masters Degree and gave out Sh437,000 as down payment for the programme.

"When I went to the agency I applied to study in Finland, got admission letter from Tampere university and paid a down payment and was later asked to pay more cash yet we had agreed that I was to pay the balance of the required amount in installments when I settled in Finland. To my suprise I got a call from the university saying I had not paid fees," said Nzuki.

He went back to the agency where the director told him they had a disagreement with the university and convinced him to apply to study in a university in Poland and would later be called and told that he had secured a work permit for Poland which he signed and was booked for an embassy appointment.

Nzuki told the committee that he honoured the embassy appointment but unfortunately got visa denial and on carrying out investigation he found out that it was due to a fake insurance policy issued by the agency and decided to visit Pioneer Insurance Company that had issued the insurance policy after which samples of genuine insurance were showed to him.

He decided to seek for a refund from the agency when he sensed that he had been conned and reported the matter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Eldoret. On November 1, 2022 he was served a letter through the agency advocate accusing him of threats and defamation of character.

"A few days later I was called by one of the agency employees known as Matthew to come and collect my cheque and refund and was issued with a postdated cheque that was not equivalent to the amount paid to the agency and on inquiry I was assaulted and I reported the matter at Central Police Station," said Nzuki.

He told the committee that he was summoned to a meeting at the police station where he went with his mother and they were told that there was information that some of the applicants were planning protests in town and they were allegedly cautioned that he would be shot in the confusion when police disperse the protesters forcing him to accept the postdated cheque.

The committee chairperson Julius Murgor (West Pokot Senator) said they will summon Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore and the Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome to shade light on the matter.

"We would be summoning the Interior and Labour Cabinet Secretary before this committee so that they can tell us what steps the government has taken to address the plight of over 8,000 youths who might have lost billions of shillings in total in this scam," said Murgor.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said it was unfortunate that innocent youths were being intimidated for fighting for their rights after being conned their hard earned money with promises of lucrative jobs.

Cherargei promised that the committee will visit Uasin Gishu county to meet with the victims so that they can understand the magnitude of the problem which has led to most families suffering depression after losing money they got from selling land to take their children abroad.