Governor Jonathan Bii “Pay School Fees or Face Deportation”

Governor Jonathan Bii

Governor Jonathan Bii

Uasin Gishu students on Scholarship in Finland face deportation

Early this month,  reports hit the headlines about the Kenyan students in Finland facing possible deportation. This is after the County Government of Uasin Gishu which spearheaded the scholarship program is reported to have failed to remit their school fees.

According to the Universities, the county government had gone against agreements made to facilitate the education of the students. Those universities are Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK); Laurea University of Applied Sciences, and  Jvaskylla University. TAMK vice-president, spoke to Helsinki Times. He confirmed that, the University had sent a payment reminder of dues of up to Ksh26,915,990 to the county, to no response. Stating that they would discontinue the students if they will not have received the funds by March.

This move, therefore, risked the 202 students facing deportation since their right to study would expire in March. Some of the students from Finland who spoke to Citizen TV said they had been given two days to vacate their hostels that have also not been paid.

The county had only remitted money for the first semester, according to the institutions.

In September 2021, the first batch under the program was flagged off by the former Governor. The scholarship airlifted the students to live, study, and get guaranteed employment in Finland upon completion of their courses.

Current situation

Amidst all this, parents of the students have expressed concern. They had gone above and beyond to ensure that requirements for entry into the Uasin Gishu Scholarship program were met.

The parents had contributed Ksh.1.19 million worth of school fees. Each parent further sent Ksh.100,000 for air tickets and Ksh.80,000  to cater for three months’ accommodation. A Ksh.30,000 insurance for each student was also deposited. Other additional costs were Ksh.6,500 interview fee, Ksh.49,000 for a visa, and Ksh.5,000 for a Covid test.

All these funds were deposited in the Uasin Gishu Overseas Trust Fund. The fund has since been established to have been run by Uasin Gishu County employees. And has now been found to be depleted.

The county government of Uasin Gishu is said to have paid only Ksh.550,000 for the first semester. The students had however paid for the full academic year to the County as instructed.

An incident that prompted the County Assembly of Uasin Gishu to establish a committee in early February to look into the matter.

The 12-member ad-hoc committee has since established some of the officials implicated in the scam. It has also recommended that a refund made for money paid by the parents meant for school fees.

The committee, led by Mr. Gilbert Chepkonga, tabled a report on March 1st at the Uasin Gishu County Assembly. In the report, the committe recommended for the program to be stopped until the many loopholes surrounding it are fixed.

According to the committee report

From the report, the County, under the stewardship of former Governor Jackson Mandago opened an account. The ‘Uasin Gishu County Government Overseas Trust Fund’ account was opened at KCB. The account was meant for purpose of receiving funds for the students enrolling under the scholarship programme.

According to the report, the programme was being managed by some county officials. Mr. Joseph Maritim-former chief officer, of the Department of Youth and Sports and principal trustee. Mr. Joel Ruto-director, Uasin Gishu County Education Revolving Fund, and Trustee. And Mr. Meshack Rono-Deputy Director, Uasin Gishu County Revolving Fund and Trustee. These 3 senior officials have so far been identified to have been at the center of the scam. The committee has recommended them for investigation by the DCI and EACC for forgery, abuse of office, and integrity.

Moreover, The county assembly wants the county attorney to step aside pending investigations by the Advocates’ Complaints Commission for professional negligence.

This was arrived at after the report revealed that there was no formal public participation regarding the programme. Also, it was found that it did not comply with the Public Finance Management Act, as the money was not public funds. It was instead a community engagement based on mutual trust.

The county attorney failed to advise the county government in his capacity as the principal legal advisor about the programme and its consequences,” the report states.

According to bank statements tabled before the committee, several individuals are among the irregular beneficiaries of funds meant for the students. The report, therefore, recommended an external forensic audit of the account; within 30 days; to prove the transactions.

The committee further wants KCB to investigate and take necessary action against its staff for professional negligence for undeserving monetary gains.

Uasin Gishu County’s intervention in the matter

Although the programme was initiated and signed during the previous government, Governor Jonathan Bii said the programme was run independently of the county government. It was run by a trust and no public funds were used to fund the programme. Hence it is not a Uasin Gishu scholarship program.

This, therefore, means that no public funds were or will be appropriated to fund this programme,” the governor said in a statement.

Governor Jonathan Bii said that the county government only came on board to support the visa application process from parents who could not obtain bank statements or even bank accounts. Therefore, the county only acted as a guarantor for the students because of the requirements at the universities.

The programme was run by a registered trust. However, the main concern claims that parents paid money to the county which was to be forwarded to the respective universities but part of it was not wired.

We have negotiated with universities for an extension of the fee due dates. We have also discussed and reminded the parents that payment of fees is their responsibility,” he said.

Despite the circumstances surrounding the possible deportation, and the parent’s concerns about the rest of the money which was not wired to support their children in the program, Governor Jonathan Bii insists that the parents should pay fees by March 31.

 “We have engaged with financial institutions, and some are willing to offer a soft loan to parents who are willing to pay fees for their children”, he said.

Bii said he has also received a report from the county assembly, which will be committed to the cabinet for discussion and recommendation on the way forward.

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