The scandal of looting education funds is a disgrace to Kenyans and the world! It is an abomination for anyone to help themselves to the baby’s food in any culture. Moreover, the place of education in society as a social equaliser cannot be gainsaid. It is a critical tool for lifting the masses out of poverty, leading to equality and development, which are the most common goals pursued by any responsible government in the world. Education is the means through which any country’s foundations and future are built.
Kenyans are utterly shocked at the ravenous greed recently exposed in the inordinate and gross misuse and abuse of public funds, regardless of concern for the future of Kenyan children and that of the nation. The inefficiency and ineptness of overall administration and management in the Ministry of Education and its agencies is abhorring and unacceptable in modern times and age. The serious lack of accountability, transparency and responsibility in the management of funds in a programme aimed at ensuring that Kenyan children, especially those from poor families, access basic education is criminal.
The extent of the pillage shows a total failure of administrative authority and lack of concern for the education needs of the nation. Clearly government affairs were not conducted according to laid down processes and law. Supervision organs at all levels failed in their oversight on how ministry departments and individuals exercised their powers, performed their duties, and on whether they strictly followed working procedures. Supervision organs failed to carry out their role of control and appear to have been complicit in the outrageous plunder.
The abomination stinks to high heaven when we factor in the fact that the thieves belong to a class that usually patronises private academies meaning, that unlike the poor who depend entirely on the programme for the education of their children, they do not need the Free Primary Education project.
Kenyans will NOT and must NOT allow anybody to play with the future of our children and country. The officials in charge of discipline supervision, including Education Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri and Permanent Secretary Prof. Karega Mutahi, who failed to spot and stop the wrongdoing must, therefore, be dealt with for dereliction of duty. Prof. Ongeri and Prof Mutahi must lead the pack in resigning to facilitate thorough investigations, especially if they believe that their hands are clean.
We are alarmed that nobody has been arrested, nor recorded statements with the police. To assuage public concerns on the management of public funds decisive action is required in this matter. The anti-corruption campaign must become high-handed. President Kibaki must make an example of this case by acting in a resolute manner that will leave no doubts in our minds that we can rely on him to combat corruption, and to build a clean government, that will provide a solid guarantee for economic development and the realization of social justice.
We reject empty rhetoric that the matter be investigated. Year in year out, new scandals read like they were copy-pasted from earlier ones with minor variations and adjustments. It is no wonder that many audit reports on these scandals seem to have become valuable guidebooks on how to steal taxpayers' money and get away with.
The misuse and abuse of public funds is an act of treason against the Republic, and its people. The inefficiency and ineptness of government administration and management of public finances is also treachery. Time has come when we must upgrade the looting of public coffers to the status of other very serious crimes like treason and treat it as such.
We must stop punishing backyard chicken thieves harsher than we do plunderers of public funds, whose actions kill many, and deny many more an opportunity for leading quality lives. Corruption is a heinous crime and betrayal of Kenyan society. We cannot continue to treat those facing corruption charges, those who have stolen billions of tax-payers money, more leniently than we do petty chicken thieves. To do so demoralizes law-abiding citizens who obediently pay their taxes and see the money wasted through open plunder. Corruption harms democracy and social justice; it disturbs rule of law and hampers economic development; it is one of humankind’s worst enemies.
As a matter of urgent necessity, we demand that those implicated in the looting of FPE funds must refund all the money they stole, and be subjected to the sternest punishment the law accords such a crime. Criminals MUST face the law with little mercy accorded to them. Those who betray public trust by engaging in corruption, by raping the nation, don't deserve to be spared the appropriate punishment. Every effort must be made to ensure that we rid our government of corruption. We say this because a government by corrupt elements, by thieves, no matter how intelligent and efficient they may be in other respects, is just as dangerous as a government by a foreign occupation army of looters.
Accordingly, in the spirit of our National Anthem, we call upon all Kenyans to defend our country against these saboteurs. We must stand up for our children and for our future.
By Neto Agostinho
National Convener, Kenyans for Justice and Development.