DCI start probe into Sh837m overseas study programme

"I can confirm that the figure that is involved by the probe of the EACC is Sh837.9 million. That is the total amount the county government officials received through the designated bank accounts in trust for the people of Uasin Gishu," said Ngumbi.

EACC sleuths have recovered key documents from three signatories of the trust bank accounts implicated in the scandal, saying that the documents will be crucial in the investigations.

Social media

As the investigations by the EACC continue, the DCI detectives are expected in Uasin Gishu County between July 18-21, for a comprehensive probe. The DCI stated through their social media platforms that they have commenced investigations into allegations of fraud involving a scholarship programme in Finland.

"This follows numerous complaints by members of the public from Uasin Gishu County, who claimed to have been defrauded millions of shillings in a scholarship programme to the Scandinavian country that failed to materialise," the DCI stated.

The DCI has urged all aggrieved victims to present themselves to the DCI county headquarters in Eldoret today for statement recording and other investigative procedures to bring the suspects to book.

As affected parents and students await government agencies to complete their investigations, questions have abounded about how the airlift programme was run by the county officials and how the students' money was used.

On Friday, Senator Jackson Mandago, who is a former governor, claimed that when he handed over power to Governor Jonathan Bii, on August 25 last year, the overseas account had a total of Sh104.7 million.

But Governor Bii and his deputy John Barorot argued that the account only has Sh1.8 million. The investigations into the airlift programme commenced in March when Bii requested EACC to move in and conduct a forensic audit of the overseas trust account and investigate senior county officials accused of forgery and abuse of office.

The governor's direction followed a report prepared by an ad-hoc committee of the County Assembly revealing the programme was flawed, and money meant for the students' education was misappropriated.

According to the committee, there was no transparency in the running of the programme. Parents of the students were never provided with the memoranda of understanding and fees structures, despite several requests to have them availed. The parents argued that the first lot of students who travelled to Finland during the onset of the programme had been given a certificate of full scholarship, although their parents were catering for their school fees.

With the certificate of full scholarship, students were greatly disadvantaged since they were treated as fully sponsored students and were given fewer hours to work to raise their school fees. According to parents led by Reuben Chepses, some students required 8,650 Euros equivalent to Sh1.19 million school fees.

The parents were also required to pay Sh80,000 for accommodation fees for three months, Sh30,000 for insurance, Sh49,000 for visa, Sh5,000 for a Covid-19 test and Sh100,000 for a flight.

The students had also paid Sh6,500 each for the interview fee but were not issued any receipts of the said amount.

Finnish universities

As of March this year, the county had sent 202 students to study in the various Finnish universities; Tampere (111 students), Jyvaskyla (25), and Laurea (66).

Another 182 students had begun the process and were expected to travel to the European country for their studies, 56 among them had even done their first semester online. Uasin Gishu County Assembly Committee led by Gilbert Chepkonga endorsed the recovery of the stolen money to support the students stranded in Finnish universities.

The report stated that the county government, under the leadership of former Governor Mandago, opened the Trust Fund account in KCB for the purpose 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 then 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 programme was not discussed at the county level.