Millions lost to ghost learners, double payment to public schools

Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu

Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Taxpayers could have lost millions of shillings in fees for non-existent learners in public schools, an audit has revealed.

More money could have been lost in double disbursement of funding to certain schools in what appears to be a collusion between officials at the Ministry of Education and school managers. The audit report was tabled in Parliament recently.

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu exposes cases where inflated numbers were used to compute allocations to schools as well instances of learning institutions sharing bank accounts.

According to the report for the financial year ending in June 2021, the State Department of Early Learning and Basic Education disbursed Sh638,435,316 to secondary schools in October 2020.

The amount comprised disbursements to 3,808 schools for operations account and 3,810 schools for tuition.

The ministry justified the disbursement saying some schools did not receive their earlier funding as they had not updated Form One admissions data in the National Education Management Information System (Nemis).

There are, however, no document showing that the institutions did not receive the earlier disbursement.

“A sample of the schools included in the list receiving this disbursement had been included in the lists that had received their regular disbursement on time,” the report says.

It adds that special needs schools were given Sh684,722,561.

The report, however, unearths discrepancy of 438 pupils in the enrolment data used as a basis for computation of the disbursement. It states that the disbursement for January to March 2021 was Sh98,049,371, comprising two tranches.

The Sh56,773,571 first disbursement was for 17,508 pupils, while enrolment for second disbursement was based on 17,946 pupils, amounting to  Sh41,275,800.

“The variance of 438 pupils has neither been explained nor reconciled,” it says.

Some Sh22,40,000 was given to 82 secondary schools in arid and semi-arid land areas, each getting Sh270,000.

The ministry said the cash was for supporting needy students. But there are no documents to show how the learners were identified.

The true number of learners being funded could not be ascertained as auditors were denied access to the enrolment data.

“Subsidy to public corporations includes to 9,024 secondary schools, amounting to Sh36,739,481,231. The data on the number of students per school and county could not be verified,” the report says.

The report terms the restriction to the Nemis data a violation of the law.

The ministry disbursed Sh57,029,236,841 for free day secondary education. But the listed recipient schools have not provided acknowledgement receipts in their accounts.

Another payment amounting to Sh137, 084,111 was made to 225 secondary schools whose account numbers differed from the format supported by the national banking system.

The funding disbursement report included Sh8, 284,401 to schools that had the same bank accounts numbers.

The schools were listed as being in different sub-counties and with distinct names. There were no refunds to indicate correction of the error.

Another disbursement totaling Sh2, 690,020 were made to 12 primary schools that shared the same bank account numbers in NEMIS system. The report says that this implies there could have been duplication in disbursement.

Guidelines for disbursement include a condition that the school holds a uniquely identifiable bank account in a reputable bank.

The report has also questioned transfers which include recurrent and capital grants to 32 primary teachers training colleges and four diploma teachers training colleges amounting to Sh394,686,400 and Sh70,200,000, respectively.

The colleges have not confirmed the monies, raising their validity.

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