Free Primary Education Scandal: Ongeri and Mutahi Must Resign

Published on 9th February 2010

Given the many scandals plaguing the Ministry of Education, including the most recent one where textbooks worth Kshs 1.7 billion are reported to have been stolen from public schools, we reiterate our earlier call for the immediate exit of Education Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri and Permanent Secretary Prof. Karega Mutahi, to facilitate independent investigations in the theft, mismanagement and the general wastage of money and other resources allocated to the education of children, especially those from poor families.

 

It is an insult to Kenyans for them to insist that we wait for the Kenya Anti-corruption Commission’s verdict on their tenure. Their presence at Jogoo House cannot allow independent investigations to be undertaken. Their immediate exit is a precondition for any serious investigations to begin. And that will help restore the lost public confidence in the ailing education sector, which is grinding to a halt.

 

It is standard practice in democratic societies that when an institution’s performance is as holistically compromised as the ministry of education currently is, those in overall charge, in our case, Prof. Ongeri and Prof Mutahi, preserve their honour by falling on their swords to take personal responsibility for collective action.

 

Unfortunately, both Prof. Ongeri and Prof. Mutahi refuse to preserve their honour by quitting honourably of their own volition rather than wait to face the dishonour of being hounded out of office by concerned citizens, for having failed to deliver on their mandate.

 

By accepting their supervisory appointments, the two, Prof. Ongeri and the Prof. Mutahi, committed themselves to be fully accountable to the people of Kenya . They had the duty to create an institutional accountability environment that serves the common good. And the integration of an efficient and effective system of accountability into the fabric of institutional planning and resource allocation to ensure their optimum utilization is an essential element of that commitment.

 

Theirs was the duty to setup performance indicators that demonstrate progress toward the strategic priorities and goals of the education ministry. Theirs was the duty to setup instruments for effective supervision of the policies, programmes, and activities of the ministry. Theirs was the duty to ensure their staff performed optimally and that not a single cent was lost to theft, misappropriation, or to any other devices by which public funds are usually looted.

 

Under the Education Act, the Education Minister and the Permanent Secretary wields immense powers as the overall decision makers at the Ministry. Therefore, they are fully responsible for the mess.

 

Further, due to those extreme powers, they have the capacity to interfere with and frustrate investigations if they do not step aside. Their mere presence is a gag on those conscientious officers who might want to stand up and tell the truth. Fear of victimization by the two powerful professors and their web of patronage will force officers with vital information not to come out into the open and provide evidence that will help investigators put a handle on the stinking mess in the Ministry. Hence, their continued intimidating presence at Jogoo House is abetting corruption.

 

Vital as education is to any country’s development and general welfare, Kenya ’s education sector has suffered gross negligence and abuse and is critically ill. As a country, we need every cent we can get from wherever before we even begin to adequately address the huge challenges facing education in Kenya . It is well beyond the scope of Kenyan taxpayers to put right our grossly under-funded, under-equipped, and under-established education sector without donor support. Hence, it is not acceptable that donors are withdrawing their critical financial support from our critically ill education sector simply because President Kibaki has refused to crack the whip on the two professors.

 

Instead, in his irritating habit of barking without biting, and in an act of national public mockery that was a blatant attack on our intelligence, on Friday, February 5, 2010, President Kibaki assembled permanent secretaries and parastatal heads in Nairobi ostensibly to review and take stock of the government’s fight against corruption.

 

Important as it is to periodically read the riot act to top civil servants as a group, it amounts to nothing if those under whose watch massive corruption occurs are not personally taken to task. Were it not so tragic, it would have been laughable that the disgraced Education PS, Prof. Karega Mutahi, whose ministry is riddled with rabid corruption, was among the top accounting officers helping the President review and take stock of the fight against corruption. That is unacceptable.

 

We are not going to entertain the trivialising of matters of national importance such as the war on corruption. Since he rode to power on the crest of the national anti-corruption crusade in December 2002, President Kibaki has reducing the war on corruption to a boring self-serving circus, where empty pious rhetoric has replaced decisive action according to the law.

 

We refuse to be spectators in our demise. Corruption is destroying our beloved country.We demand that the corrupt or those who allow corruption to take root under their watch be dealt with according to the law. And that includes stepping aside when under investigation.

 

Prof. Ongeri and Prof. Mutahi must quit  office failure to which nationwide mass action will be mobilised to oust them.

 

Signed:

1. Bunge la Mwananchi

2. La Vie Foundation

3.  Integrity Quest and Environmental Rehabilitation of Kenya (IQER)

4. Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION)

5. Name and Shame Corruption Networks (NASCON) Campaign

6. Social Reform Centre(SOREC)

7. Social and Public Accountability Network (SPAN)

8. Kibera Human Rights Network

9. UjamaaCenter  

10. New Vision Kenya

11. Elimu Yetu Coalition

12. Daraja

13. Kenyans for Justice and Development (KEJUDE)

 


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