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Sh800 Million Education Funds for Private University Sponsorship Missing

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Sh800 Million Education Funds for Private University Sponsorship Missing

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu’s absence before the Public Investments Committee on Education and Governance to address audit queries concerning government sponsorship of students in private universities left members unimpressed.

Chaired by Bumula MP Jack Wamboka, the committee had expected Mr. Machogu to provide clarification on a special report by Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu. The report highlighted a loss of over Sh800 million under a programme where the government placed and funded students in 32 private universities. Mr. Wamboka directed the CS to appear before the MPs on April 11.

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Students in private universities found themselves caught in the crossfire as Parliament scrutinised the expenditure. Additionally, these institutions demanded payment of over Sh31.4 billion owed to them by the government.

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Tuition fees for these students remained unpaid, leading to the discontinuation of studies at some universities and the retention of certificates by others upon graduation. The National Treasury referred the matter to its Pending Bills Verification Committee.

Members dismissed the team from the Ministry of Education, under the leadership of Higher Education Principal Secretary Beatrice Inyangala, during the aborted sitting.

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Among those in her entourage were Higher Education Loans Board CEO Charles Ringera, Universities Fund boss Geoffrey Monari, Commission for Higher Education CEO Mike Kuria, Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service CEO Agnes Mercy Wahome, and National Research Fund boss Dickson Andala.

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Dr. Inyangala explained Mr. Machogu’s absence, stating that he was attending a Senate committee meeting. However, MPs argued that Mr. Machogu bore the responsibility to address the audit queries, which they deemed significant. Mr. Wamboka criticised the CS for his repeated non-attendance and warned of potential repercussions if he failed to honour future invitations.

Auditor-General Gathungu’s report highlighted discrepancies in the records of the funds spent over a seven-year period. The government allocated Sh15,759,377,812 for disbursement, but the records revealed a disbursement of Sh15,762,573,515, leading to an overdisbursement of Sh3,195,703.

Discrepancies were also noted between the amounts disbursed to universities and the amounts they claimed to have received.

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The government initiated the sponsorship programme in 2016 following reforms aimed at curbing exam cheating, resulting in a decrease in university qualifiers.

Private universities, which absorbed students scoring a mean grade of C+ and above, had a significant impact. The programme ceased last year with the introduction of new tertiary education funding, now applicable only to students in their second, third, or fourth year of study.

Private universities expressed discontent with the reduced government funding, which dropped from an expected 80% to 10% in the current financial year. In a letter to Mr. Machogu, the treasurer of the Kenya Association of Private Universities, Prof. Washington Okeyo, urged an increase in the allocated amount to 30%.

Students seeking education in private universities don’t qualify for government scholarships but can apply for student loans through Helb. The audit report revealed that the Universities Fund failed to receive funds released by the National Treasury for distribution to private universities.

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The audit report also brought to light instances of disbursing funds to students who were not eligible for the program, and irregular disbursements to students who had completed their studies or graduated already.

Sh800 Million Education Funds for Private University Sponsorship Missing

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