Parents threaten to disrupt Eldoret devolution meet

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023 04:45 | By
Reuben Koech, one of the parents who are demanding a refund of millions of shillings they paid to Uasin Gishu county for the aborted airlift education programme for their children to study in Finland and Canada.
Reuben Koech, one of the parents who are demanding a refund of millions of shillings they paid to Uasin Gishu county for the aborted airlift education programme for their children to study in Finland and Canada. PHOTO/Winstone Chiseremi

Parents whose children failed to travel to Finland and Canada despite paying school fees running into millions after the money was allegedly embezzled by Uasin Gishu County government employees have rejected calls to put on hold their push to have their money refunded until the devolution conference slated for next week in Eldoret is concluded.

The parents who held a crisis meeting with the county leadership threatened to disrupt the conference if the devolved unit failed to refund them their money.

Julius Rono, a parent from Ziwa said he sold his five-acre land for her three children to go for studies to the Finnish county but this has not materialised. He claimed that he paid fees in April last year for his three children to travel to the Finnish country but none of them has travelled.

“I’m still being asked to add more money. For how long will I add money for my children to travel? We are tired of these endless meetings. It seems you just want us to be patient for the devolution conference to end,” said Lelei.

John Murei, another parent said he paid more than Sh1 million for his child to travel to Finland but to date there is no communication from the county government.

“My child has been asking me questions for the last one year but I have no answers.  We wonder why the county government is now saying that the education scholarship was not its initiative, yet it was being managed by county personnel,” said Murei.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii called on the affected parents and students to remain patient as the county administration looks for an amicable solution to resolve the issue which is being investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

 “Please let’s give politics off this matter. Let’s all work together as we look for a permanent solution. Some people are using this issue to gain political mileage,” said Bii.

 “This is a process and we have enemies. The first enemy is jealousy. Some people are unhappy seeing other people’s children travel abroad for studies. We also have political interference. Some have political differences with me and Mandago and they are using innocent students to drive their agenda,” added the governor.

Deputy governor John Barorot who is also the chairman of the Taskforce which was appointed to look into the matter said that they will soon make their recommendations.

“Our draft report is almost ready.  We will soon finish our report once we come back from Finland because we want our recommendations to be all-encompassing,” said Barorot.

Barorot claimed that some people have written emails to universities urging the institutions to withdraw all students from Uasin Gishu County.

 “The emails have been written to the universities in Finland and Canada and the immigration department. The universities have written back to us to confirm if that is the position of the county government,” said Barorot.

Opportunities abroad

Former Governor Jackson Mandago whom the idea of Uasin Gishu Overseas Trust Fund was conceptualised and operationalised during his tenure said the aim of the initiative was to ensure the students get opportunities abroad.

 “We understand you have suffered and it is not our wish. When we initiated this programme, it is because we wanted you to succeed. Nobody has ever planned that you suffer here,” said Mandago.

“This has nothing to do with the devolution conference. Unajua hata devolution ikipita Bii ataendelea kuwa gavana wa county na nitabaki kuwa seneta. (The devolution conference will come and go but Bii will remain Governor and I the Senator). We are all residents here. Where will we go? I want to assure that this has nothing to do with politics,” added Mandago.

EACC has since commenced investigation into alleged embezzlement of more than Sh837 million by officials of the Uasin Gishu County Government.

The funds were collected from parents for the facilitation of Tertiary Education in Finland and Canada during the Financial Year 2021/22.

People Daily established that EACC detectives on Tuesday interrogated former Mandago for more than nine hours at Integrity Centre in Nairobi.

Sources indicate that Mandago was summoned to assist in investigations considering his role as the Chief Executive Officer of the County Government of Uasin Gishu when the Overseas Trust Fund was conceptualised and operationalised.

The Uasin Gishu Education Trust Fund Account was opened in May 2021 and by December 2022 a total of Sh957,167,143 had been credited to the account by parents.

People Daily established that a total of Sh257,326,740 was debited from the Uasin Gishu Overseas Account to beneficiaries indicated as agents and or intermediaries for onward transmission to Universities in Finland and Canada.

The probe also focuses on Sh57,538,429 withdrawn locally by the county officials appointed to manage the Trust Fund Account. According to the county government, currently 233 students are studying in Finland and 45 in Canada.

It also emerged that some parents defaulted in making payments, which necessitated the use of funds for children who had not yet travelled to pay second-semester fees for those already in overseas universities.

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