Why MPs rejected Ruto order to have parents pay fees via e-Citizen

Government e-Citizen portal. [David Gichuru, Standard]

President William Ruto suffered a blow after MPs opposed a directive requiring parents to pay school fees through the e-Citizen platform.

The plan, which had already been halted by a court order, faced strong criticism from legislators who argued it would place an undue financial burden on parents and could disrupt operations due to delays in accessing funds.

During a session with the Immigration and Citizen Services PS Julius Bitok yesterday, the National Assembly Committee on Education raised concerns about the viability of the plan to collect fees through the government portal.

Vice Chairman Malulu Injendi pointed out the shortcomings in the platform, with Nabii Nabwera (Lugari) questioning the reliability of the system, citing the Treasury's history of delays in allocating funds to schools. 

“Treasury is the most notorious institution in this country because they delay even the allocation of capitation funds, so what guarantee do we have that the same won’t be witnessed with fees paid through e-citizen?” said Nabwera.

Additional burden

Further doubts were raised by Clive Gisairo (Kitutu Masaba), arguing that the e-Citizen requirement would not prevent schools from soliciting additional fees outside the platform.

He further questioned the service charge levied to users, noting it would be an additional burden to the parents.

“You are saying that the system will make it cheaper for parents to pay fees, no, it will actually be more expensive because for each transaction there is a Sh50 service fee,” Gisairo said.

But Prof Bitok defended the system, saying those paying fees through the platform would be exempted from the service fees. “Parents will not pay the Sh50 service fee, all other government services have to pay the service fee but for payment of fees, they will not pay the service fee,” he said.

Emphasising the Government's commitment to using technology to improve efficiency, the PS assured the committee that the platform was designed to ensure real-time transfer of funds to school accounts, eliminating delays associated with the Treasury disbursement processes.

“This money does not remain at the Treasury or the e-citizen account. We have a system called the T-Plus system that allows it go through Treasury but automatically settled to the school account,” he said.

Bitok argued that the move would enhance visibility and transparency in schools. “The Kenya Kwanza administration is committed to leveraging on technology and it is through this that we mounted the plan.”

The PS was further asked to explain how the system would accommodate parents who pay fees through commodities.

Engaging principals

Narok Woman Rep, Rebecca Tonkei, also questioned how the government would do a valuation for such parents and how the payment would be authenticated on the portal for the issuance of a receipt.

The PS said they had stopped plan to engage school principals until a case challenging the directive is determined.

The court suspended the directive that was to start in January with a pilot phase with the national schools.