How Kenyans faked themselves into employment

1, 337 investigation files being handled by the EACC involves those who forged their degree, diplomas, and form four certificates.  [iStockphoto]

The fake academic papers scandal in government institutions currently under investigation by the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) mimics the 2002 hit American film “catch me if you can.”

In the film, a notorious con man, Frank Abagnale Jr, poses as a pilot, doctor, and lawyer, perfectly executing both duties even though he has no academic certificates and is being chased by an FBI agent.

In a startling expose by EACC, one of the suspects forged a degree to secure employment as a scientist in a government institution, where he ably performed his duties for four years.

The said “scientist” worked at the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (Rerec) for four years when the management noticed that he was not a university graduate.

“It is startling because it was not clear how he was able to perform his duties because this is an area that required a highly skilled scientist,” said Mr John Lolkoloi, Director of Ethics and Leadership at EACC.

Yesterday, we also established from EACC that those under investigation are senior politicians, general managers of some government agencies, and staff at the counties.

The scope of the probe of 1, 337 investigation files being handled by the EACC involves those who forged their degree, diplomas, and form four certificates to secure employment, to get a promotion or resignation.

The highest number of cases being handled by EACC is from the Kenya Medical Training College KMTC, 274, Homa Bay County, 144, Nairobi Water, 76, and Migori County 93 among other institutions. 

Lolkoloi said already 24 suspects have been charged with seven cases completed and leading to a conviction. He said Sh12.8 million in salaries paid to those with fake papers has been recovered.

“This is a very huge task. The DCI is dealing with the MDAs (Ministry Departments and Agencies) while we are investigating counties, commissions, universities and colleges,” he said. The other outstanding case under investigation is where four people changed their Identification Card to match the name on one KCSE result slip to enable them to join universities.

“There are other suspects with genuine degrees but they forged a Form four certificate to enable them to join universities. Those degrees are bogus because they were acquired fraudulently,” said Lolkoloi.

Other cases being investigated by the EACC include the altering of academic papers by government employees. Most of the certificates altered are KCSE certificates from C+ to A or D to B.

“In some university degrees, we have cases where suspects attained a Pass but changed to Second Class Upper Division. We also have a case of someone with a Master’s Degree in ICT from Day Star University which does not offer such a course,” said Lolkoloi.

The process to root out those with fake academic papers started in 2022 when the Public Service Commission (PSC) directed state agencies to authenticate the education papers of their employees.

A year later, in 2023, PSC and Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) disclosed that out of the 53, 000 civil servants who submitted their documents for verification over 2,000 had fake papers.

According to the joint report by PSC and Knec, the suspects used fake papers to secure employment, promotion, or designation. EACC and DCI were then tasked to investigate the suspects.

However, earlier in 2015, the DCI investigation at the Kenya Ports Authority KPA established that 962 workers and 423 managers had nonexistent academic certificates or qualifications.

KPA sacked 132 disgraced workers, including 25 lower and middle-level managers. On Monday, EACC said all those who were sacked would have to surrender the salaries and benefits they got from KPA.

“We have issued an advisory to all government departments and agencies that employed, those flagged for having fake academic papers should not get any benefit even if they retire or resign right now. The pension for those who have retired should be frozen,” said Lolkoloi.

Last week, a former General Manager of Finance and ICT at the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy (Rerec), Noah Oluoch, was charged with securing a job using a forged master’s degree certificate.

He was also charged with receiving fraudulently a salary of Sh1.4 million from the institution. 

“Other than the two charges, those arrested will also face a charge of presenting fake documents to a government officer,” said Lolkoloi.

The debate on civil servants with fake academic papers was rekindled by President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua during the wage bill conference.

Ruto asked those with fake documents to resign and refund the salary benefits they had received from the public coffers.

Yesterday, it was not clear when the investigation into the fake academic documents in national and county government will be complete. EACC said the cases will be handled in batches.