The wanting state of housing for prison officers has been laid bare by the Auditor General Edward Ouko, who has attributed the high level of stress suffered by the officers to the challenges in the provision of the basic amenity.
In his Performance Audit report on the state of housing for members serving in the department of correctional services, Ouko notes that the majority of the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) staff, across all cadres, are not housed, while those lucky to have a roof above their head are living in deplorable conditions.
He says the large majority of the warders are still living in mud houses, others in aged pre-independence structures, and even in some cases open halls.
The lack of housing, the report notes, has denied the majority of the staff members the luxury of living with their families, as is the case with the majority of civil servants, with the Auditor accusing the Government of failing to prioritise the housing scheme for the staff at the KPS.
“The audit observed officers accommodated in temporary structures, including; pre-independence A-frames and uni-huts, mud houses, iron sheet houses, and timber houses, with several instances of officers accommodated in single rooms with their families while other officers shared rooms,” says Ouko in his report.
He said that these houses, some of which are already condemned and marked as unfit for human occupation, lacked basic amenities, especially water and sanitation facilities, with occupants forced to use communal watering points and sanitation facilities located within the prison line. It was observed that some of the communal sanitation facilities were dilapidated and unhygienic.
“The indecent housing has not only affected officers’ work performance, but also social life as was revealed by the audit. Interviews reported low work morale, attributed to indecent housing, in five out of 17 stations visited,” states the report.
It adds: “Analysis of audit survey data also revealed that 139 out of 384 officers, representing 36 percent, who described how prison housing has affected their performance, reported low work morale while another 50, stated that they suffer constant stress”.
The report says that some of the structures housing the officers were built during the colonial period, and have suffered neglect over years, with little maintenance put on them.
“Due to lack of maintenance, the majority of prison staff houses are dilapidated and not fit for human habitation. Officers live in houses with broken windows and doors, cracked walls and leaking roofs,” says Ouko.
Ouko says that despite the Government coming up with the prison’s reforms in 2003, popularly referred to as the Moody Awori Programme, little had been achieved under the plan as the initiative was abandoned only after a few year’s allocations.
The programme’s responsibility placed under the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI), which was less concerned about the quality of the units they were putting up.
The Auditor poke holes on the RRI programme, saying it slowed down the Awori programme despite Sh 1.55 billion having been sunk in it for the housing units.
“Interviews and scrutiny of documents revealed that the prison reforms started off with the decent two and three-bedroomed houses under the Moody Awori programme. The situation changed with the introduction of RRI in 2007/08. Most of the houses constructed under RRI were single rooms and bedsitters. 2,626 out of the total 3,190 RRI units were bedsitters,” states the report.
The report notes that, while KPS has been recruiting officers into the service over the years, it has not been considering their housing in commensurate numbers.
“As at the time of the audit, KPS had only 3,894 permanent houses, one-bedroomed and above, against a staff population of 23,831. The problem has been compounded by an apparent lack of prioritisation of prison staff housing by the government,” says the report.
The report says the programme has since been placed under the combined housing programme for the police Police/Prisons Housing Programme (PPHP), where it says the prison staff’s welfare is not well handed.
“The current PPHP appears to favour the Kenya Police Service over KPS in the allocation of housing units. For example, a project involving the construction of 1850 housing units was underway as at the time of the audit. Out of the 1850 units, KPS was only allocated 350 units,” states the report.
The Auditor has consequently challenged the KPS management to consider developing and implementing a long-term strategy on staff housing, improve on the hygienic condition of houses already in place and consider putting emphasis on basic amenities, especially water and sanitation, as an important component of housing.
He adds: “To improve on the current physical condition of staff houses, the KPS management should work closely with the State Department of Housing and Urban Development to refurbish the dilapidated permanent houses”.
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