The implementation of the Kenya Education Sector Support Program (KESSP) was seen as a final bright star falling into alignment. However, nine years down the line, this program is on the verge of collapse. Close to 4.6 billion of the total money injected into KESSP has been embezzled.
Yet the government is desperately and frantically engaged in semantics in a bid to downplay the enormity of this embezzlement. What the public is hearing is that this money has been misappropriated. However, there is a huge gulf in terms of meaning between embezzlement and misappropriation. The latter may occur due to unauthorized and unregulated virement. On the other hand, embezzlement is outright theft of public finances. So far all indications are that this is an outright act of embezzlement. In fact a few individuals are set to appear in court for theft. However the money that these individuals are alleged to have stolen is less than two hundred million. The million dollar question is where is the rest of the over four billion shillings?
There can only be two plausible explanations. First it could be that though the money was allocated to the Ministry of Basic Education, treasury did not release all of it. This explains why Professor Ongeri has requested parliament to give him more time to reconcile figures. He probably has a point given that treasury has of late been a target of unrelenting opprobrium especially from the Ministry of lands for allegedly sitting pretty on money meant for the resettlement of IDPS. Treasury has on the other hand insisted that it had duly released all the funds. To date, intrigues still surround these funds. Given this history with treasury it is only after Professor Ongeri reconciles the figures that the public can determine the whereabouts of the unaccounted billions.
The second explanation is that a few bureaucrats in the Ministry of Basic Education are being used as a smokescreen to conceal the real faces behind the four billion scam. Obviously the real culprits are people high up in the citadel of political power. They probably need these billions to put in place effective political campaign machinery that will shake all the four corners of the country. KESSP thus became a perfect conduit pipe to harness the necessary billions. This could explain why Professor Ongeri is unshaken even as the public is exposed to the damning audit report. Later he had the gall to furiously spin strange tales in parliament. He even indicted the public for demanding for his immediate resignation. In the opinion of Professor Ongeri anyone remotely associating him with this scam must be too benighted, uncomprehending or completely misinformed. It is hardly surprising that he imagines that calls for his resignation are an “orchestrated evil scheme” to bring him down politically. To this end, he has sought parliament’s protection!
According to Professor Ongeri the fact that his name is not mentioned anywhere in the audit report is enough for him to be vindicated. But there is something in his demeanor that savors of deceit. His utterances are indicative of a minister shirking responsibility. He must be reminded that as the substantive minister, he is the chief custodian of public funds in the ministry of Basic Education. He has the responsibility of ensuring that any public finances including debts incurred by the Government on behalf of the Kenyan people is managed and administered in a transparent and accountable manner.
In this regard, I implore parliament not to take seriously Ongeri`s rhetoric for in so doing parliament will only be sanctifying the depths of his errors and imagine (as he has done) that there are hidden motives in the public`s call for his resignation. Contrary to what Ongeri believes, this insidious scheme threatens to bring down (not him), but the future of millions of the poor Kenyan children and the future of the country as a whole.
His denial reminds me an Igbo saying that states that “a rock behind the sea does not hear rainfall even if it rains torrentially.” This is because such a rock is always wet to notice the rain. Like this rock, Professor Ongeri is absolutely drenched in the FPE scam. No matter the torrential outpouring of complaints from the public, he is simply tone deaf.
Finally, the true picture on graft among public officers would be incomplete if President Kibaki`s nine year presidency that has been punctuated by stunning inaction is omitted. The only time he seemed active was last year when he suddenly found the voice to denounce the PM`s suspension of professor Ongeri and William Ruto over corruption allegations. Later on he gave a fiery speech in parliament whose unmistakable intention was to lambast the PM. Furthermore, reports that President Kibaki is keen to have suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto back in the Cabinet despite the fact that he was acquitted on frivolous grounds is indicative of the fact that President Kibaki is least interested in converting his rhetoric on graft into action.
President Kibaki must know that his inaction on corruption is a huge blot in his nine year legacy. It is high time he took notice of the public discontent with the state of affairs and took the necessary action against corrupt public officers.