Civil servants with fake papers to repay salaries, lose benefits

Over two thousand civil servants are facing the grim prospect of losing their salaries, retirement benefits, and other perks following revelations that they used forged academic qualifications to secure employment or promotions within the public service sector.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) said it has halted payments of terminal benefits to those implicated and will recover earnings obtained through deceitful means.

In a circular dated March 11, 2024, the EACC instructed all public institutions across the country to cease processing and disbursing terminal dues to officers who resign or opt for early retirement to evade criminal charges related to document forgery.

The circular underscored the commission's constitutional mandate to uphold integrity standards among state and public officers, particularly in matters concerning management of public affairs.

“It has come to the attention of the commission that some public institutions have allowed public officers with cases of forged documents and academic and professional certificates to resign or proceed  on early retirement and processed payment of terminal benefits without following the law,” EACC CEO said in a letter to accounting and authorised officers, constitutional commissions and independent offices, the National Assembly, Judiciary, public universities, county assembly boards, and County Public Service Boards.

Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Anthony Muchiri noted that more than 2,000 public officers had secured positions, promotions, or redesignations through fake academic papers. Amb Muchiri said authentication is ongoing and more cases of forgeries will be unearthed.

EACC spokesperson Eric Ngumbi, expressed concern over collusion between academic fraudsters and their superiors, indicating that all involved parties would be held accountable for their actions.

“Some are requesting an early retirement to run away from cases investigating forged documents. We understand that they are working with other officers in government, but we will catch up with them," Ngumbi said.

He highlighted ongoing investigations into the documents of cases involving early retirement, stressing that everyone implicated, including heads of public institutions, would face consequences.

"This number is not final as the authentication exercise is still ongoing and we expect to receive more cases of forgeries," said Muchiri.

The EACC circular not only calls for the cessation of benefits processing but also mandates the recovery of all salaries and benefits accrued by individuals found to have been employed based on fraudulent academic credentials.

“To this end, the commission advises that all accounting officers and authorised officers should not process befits, including pensions, unpaid allowances, and accrued leave, for persons found to have used fraudulent academic qualifications to gain employment in the public sector,” the circular said.

The magnitude of the issue is starkly evident in the findings of the PSC, which conducted a comprehensive investigation across various governmental institutions. Out of the 53,599 cases referred to the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) for authentication, 1,280 were confirmed to have been forged.

Moreover, 787 officers were identified as having used fraudulent certificates to secure appointments, promotions, or redesignations in the public service. The financial implications of such malpractice are substantial, with government spending on wages exceeding the trillion-shilling mark, representing a significant portion of tax collections.

State entities such as Kenya Railways, Kenya Medical Training College, and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital have already taken action against staff members found to have presented forged academic credentials, with terminations and resignations being reported across various institutions.

The investigation targeted a total of 331 institutions, comprising ministries, state departments, agencies (MDAs), state corporations, semi-autonomous government agencies, and public universities. Despite compliance issues at some institutions, the magnitude of the problem remains alarming.

Common forgeries uncovered by PSC include alterations of KCSE mean grades, forged KCSE certificates, and falsified education certificates. The PSC has recommended that all cases be referred to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and EACC for prosecution and the recovery of ill-gotten gains, advocating for the denial of benefits to all persons implicated in fraudulent activities.

The comprehensive report was submitted to both the DCI and the EACC for further action, signalling a concerted effort to address the pervasive issue of document forgery within the public service sector.