Fight over recognition of academic certificates

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha speaking during a meeting held by the Ministry with The Kenya Editors Guild on Competent Best Curriculum, on Tuesday, 14, September, 2021 in Nairobi. [Samson Wire, Standard].

A fresh fight has erupted between four government agencies over which of them is authorised to recognise academic papers obtained locally or from foreign institutions.

This is after a petition filed by George Bala claimed that the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) does not have powers to approve national and foreign qualifications.

The petition says that such powers are only vested with the Commission for University Education (CUE) and Technical and Vocational Education Training Authority (TVETA).

In his orders issued on November 17, Justice Anthony Ndung’u temporarily stopped KNQA from verifying national and foreign academic qualifications.

The judge issued orders suspending Part III of the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Regulations, which gave it the authority to recognise, equate and verify national and foreign academic qualifications.

Justice Ndung’u said the orders will remain in force until February 2, 2022, when a suit challenging the powers of Ministry of Education and the KNQA on verification of academic qualifications will be determined.

The petition by Bala has lifted the lid on internal fights between the Ministry, KNQA, CUE and the TVETA on which of them should have the mandate to verify academic qualifications.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has now invited the Attorney General Kihara Kariuki’s office to take over the matter.

“Your office should enter appearance for all the respondents and interested parties in the matter coming up for mention on November 16, 2021,” said Magoha, in his letter dated November 1, 2021.

Magoha also said: “In light of the issues raised in this petition, and as the head of the ministerial docket under which most of the pertinent regulatory bodies are domiciled, I find it imperative to ensure that a consistent position on the various issued posed is taken.”

The petitioner, through lawyer Deogratius Omondi, argued that KNQA has been illegally using provisions of the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Regulations to usurp powers vested in CUE and the other authorities mandated to vet all academic qualifications for higher institutions.

“There is nowhere in the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Act where KNQA is vested with the power by Parliament to recognise, equate or verify national and foreign academic qualifications,” said Omondi.

He accused the Ministry of Education of unlawfully making changes to the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Act by introducing the regulations and giving power to KNQA to vet academic certificates when they have no such capacity.

He told the court that under Section 29 of the Kenya National Qualifications Framework Act, the Ministry of education is given powers to make regulations for verification of certificates but the power does not extend to making regulations that illegally usurp the mandates of other bodies.

“The ministry cannot make regulations that are inconsistent with the law. They purported to confer powers to KNQA and in the process violated provisions of the law which also recognises other bodies mandated to verify the certificates,” said Omondi.

According to Omondi, KNQA is only mandated to set the standards for harmonisation and recognition of national and foreign qualifications.

He stated that they were alarmed in January when KNQA, through its chief executive officer, usurped the powers of CUE and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority by announcing that it will start verifying certificates.

Omondi told the court that the move was contradictory and in violation of the law since it is only CUE and the other established agencies that have the required systems and trained personnel to verify academic certificates.

“We are in a critical time where persons seeking elective positions are seeking clearance through recognition, equation, verification and approval of local and foreign academic certificates and it is in the public interest that it is the correct institution that is allowed to do the work,” he said.

Bala in his affidavit to support the application swore that he accessed KNQA’s website in October and discovered that they were illegally charging Sh5,000 for Kenyans seeking recognition of their certificates and Sh10,000 for foreigners seeking the same services.

He claimed the charges which also include an additional Sh1,000 for locals and Sh3,000 for foreigners to verify the certificates was an overreach and usurpation of functions they do not have power to perform.