Wangamati Scholarship marred with alleged irregularities

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Bungoma County Governor (file photo)
Bungoma County Governor (file photo)

Millions of money lost in Bungoma County under Scholarship program dubbed  Governor Wangamati Scholarship has been revealed by a task force formed by the sitting Governor Ken Lusaka.

After he took oath of office, Governor Lusaka swore that as a government they must always ensure that people get value for the money in all their undertakings as an Administration.

That was when he came up with three task forces to help him get a clear report on the past regime.

The three task forces included the task force on human resource, pending bills, and scholarships.

The task force on scholarships that was chaired By Ferdinand Nabiswa was expected to come up with exact numbers of beneficiaries, Qualification criteria, budgetary allocations, actual fee balances for beneficiaries among other issues.

The task force on human resource chaired by lawyer Amos Makokha was expected to come up with the exact numbers of staff  and identification of casuals who won a court case against the County, confirm the exact numbers of County staff, total number of County staff, confirm the statutory deductions of County workers and their state of remittance among other things.

The pending bills task force chaired by CPA Rashid Simiyu was supposed to come out with actual list of pending bills, record of the work done and description, obtain evidence of work done and goods delivered, physical verification among other things.

Governor Lusaka received the task force report last week and revealed it on Thursday to the public.

Some of the findings included;

On the Scholarship Program- The Task Force reviewed the scholarship program from the year 2018 to date and sampled beneficiary students drawn from 46 out of a total of 522 schools that have received funding from the program.

The process of identifying the beneficiaries was massively flawed with many undeserving cases being awarded scholarships and deserving cases denied. There were many cases of changes made to the original list of beneficiaries as cited below:

  1. In the sample of 46 schools, 7 students had been transferred but their former school continued to receive funds.
  2. From the small sample it was established that the County continued to pay fees for 18 students whose parents had paid their fees in full.

iii. The County also continued to pay fees for 11 students, whose fees had been fully paid by other Sponsors.

There was a revelation of ghost students where there was over-Payments to Schools and Cases of One recipient receiving multiple allocations for instance; the five schools sampled as case study included; Kibabii High where the number of students on record were 521 but the actual number in school were 409, Teremi Boys 533 students but the actual number was 420, Bungoma High the number of beneficiaries was recorded as 414 but the actual number was 326, Cardinal Otunga Gilrs had 458 students recorded as beneficiaries whereas the actual number was 378, Moi Girls Kamusinga had 258 students on records and the actual number was 196,Kapsokwony Boys had 166 students recorded as beneficiaries whereas the actual number of beneficiaries was 104 each student was allocated Ksh. 35,000 this shows that from the 521 ghost students in the six sampled schools, the County lost Ksh.19,140,000.

“Then the actual amount possibly misappropriated must run into the hundreds of millions, when extrapolated,” read part of the report

During the head count of beneficiaries, there was a very high number of students who could not be traced and in some instances the schools were not even aware of their existence.

Examples of these include:

1) A total of 62 students who could not be traced in Chebukaka Girls Secondary School.

2) A total of 17 students in Chesamisi Boys who could not be traced.

3) In Kibuk Girls High School, 39 students were untraceable.

On the Human resource audit, the taskforce found out that there was;

a) Discrepancies in the number of Casuals employed: Whereas the Employment and Labour Relations Court in the ruling on Petition No 1 of 2019 on 13th May, 2020 directed that the 463 Casuals who had filed the case be employed, The County Public Service Board went ahead and hired over 660 casuals; an excess of 197 persons over and above those directed by the Court order.

b) Flawed Recruitment of Village Administrators;

1) The Task force requested for copies of the minutes of the different stages of the recruitment process of Village Administrators. None were provided and on further inquiry, the Task force was informed that there were no minutes.

2) The Task-force identified the 18 Village Administrators whose names do not appear in the application registers but their names appear last in each of their respective Village shortlists and later appointed and deployed.

3) The Task-force identified 2 Village Administrators who were neither in the Application Register nor shortlist, but they were appointed and deployed. The areas are Hospital Village in Township Ward and Malaha village in Matulo WARD.

4) The task-force Identified 2 persons employed who at the date of employment were under age. The qualification age for this position as per the advertisement was at least 25years and above. The two persons were below the age of 25. The two are one from Mukhe village in Misikhu WARD and Korng’otuny village in Chepyuk WARD

5) The Task-force identified 26 persons employed who have very suspicious academic papers that require Kenta National Qualification Authority verification.

6) The Task-force identified 3 persons who did not meet the minimum academic requirements for the position of Village Administrator.

7) The Task-force Identified 33 persons who at the time of employment were 45 years old and above but employed on Permanent and Pensionable terms. This was contrary to the Public Service Superannuation Scheme Circular implemented from 1st January 2021 which provides that persons above the age of 45 shall not automatically join the Scheme, but can only voluntarily do so.

8) The Task-force identified 5 persons who presented only photocopies of their certificates, with police abstracts claiming that the certificates were either lost or burned. The 5 persons should not have been shortlisted in the first place for failure to have Originals.

9) The Task force identified 4 persons who presented only transcripts of their respective certificates.

10) The Task-force also established that 2 Village Administrators were appointed but never deployed.

c) Non Compliance in submission of Statutory Deductions: These include remittances to LAP Fund, LAP Trust/CPF, NSSF, NHIF, PAYE, where arrears now stand at over Ksh. 500 million and which continues to incur interest and penalties.

d) Arbitrary Deployment of Staff: The Committee established that a number of staff were deployed to stations under questionable circumstances and marred with political instigations.

And on the pending bills as the third assignment given to the task force by Governor Lusaka it was found out that there was;

Payments for ghost projects: The Committee identified payments made for what appear to be non-existent road projects. The claims were not supported by any valid documentary evidence. A case in point is payments made for six road projects that appear to be supported by the same set of photographs as evidence of works done.

b) Illegal variation of contracts and the contract terms; The Task Force detected what appears to be a pre-determined scheme to trigger future variations on works, through deliberate understating of requirements at the BQ stage. An example of this is in the construction of the dual carriageway where there was a clear attempt to under-state the number of street lights and round-abouts required, signage and company identity for dual carriage is questionable and this require in-depth investigation.

c) Contracts content violations: The Committee identified on-going projects that are operating outside the contract period. Again, the on-going works on the dual carriageway are going on despite the contract having expired in the month of July 2022. This has not been renewed or extended.

d) Haphazard Over commitments and selective payment of pending bills in the system: The total commitments and pending bills is over Ksh. 9 billion which is unprecendented. This point to symptoms of total abuse and deliberate disregard to PFMA act. Most commitments were also done after 31st of May through the use of dummy exchequer request to release money to pay suspicious contracts.

e) Weak Internal Controls: The Task Force noted that the County regularly made payments on the basis of photocopies contrary to laid down procedures and best practices and that the County Treasury remained a payment point other than a control and a compliant centre thus exposed the county operations to manipulation.

After Lusaka revealing the above task force report to the public se said his administration will, within the law, deal firmly and decisively with any Public Officer who by use of their position commits any act of commission or omission that compromises service delivery or causes any loss of public funds, ordered  the County Public Service Board to revoke all letters of appointment for the Village Administrators who did not meet the minimum qualifications, in line with Section 75 of the County Government Act and after due process, told the County Attorney to immediately apply for a judicial review regarding the court ruling on the casuals so as to give a basis for determining the bona fide casuals to be absorbed. In the meantime the appointment of the list of 660 plus casuals remains suspended.

Lusaka had suspended some CECs and Chief Officers to pave way for investigation therefore, said the above will remain on leave for a further one month to allow for the audits to be completed.

He further extended the period for the task force team for ten days to enable them conclude and submit their final reports.