Ministry taken to task over procurement of text books

Parents purchase school items at Khimji Bookshop in Nyeri town

Parents purchase school items at Khimji Bookshop in Nyeri town on Saturday, January 06, in preparation for the reopening of schools after the long holiday break.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

A storm is brewing between Parliament and the Ministry of Education over the centralised procurement of schoolbooks and other learning materials.

The development comes after some senators poked holes into the system, saying it has created more problems.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi argued that the idea to change the policy to centralised procurement may have been inspired by the need for greater accountability in the procurement process. It, however, had created more challenges than the system that was there before.

The lawmaker pointed out that he has received complaints from head teachers in his county that some schools have received books that they do not need.

“For example, a school that does not teach Islamic studies is being given books on Islamic studies. That is a waste,” said Senator Osotsi.

“The Committee on Education needs to reflect on this matter and look into all the loopholes and report back to this House. This is so that, if possible, we revert to the system that was there before where every school could handle procurement of its own learning materials,” he added.

Tuition materials

Meru Senator Kathuri Murungi said schools should be given money to buy what is necessary or according to their need. He said teachers and principals have been complaining about textbooks being dumped in their schools even when they do not need them.

“Since the publishers get contracts directly from the Ministry of Education, they dump books in schools without even knowing whether they require them or not,” said the Senate Deputy Speaker.

The development followed a request for a statement from the Senate Education Committee regarding last-mile delivery of textbooks and other tuition materials that are centrally procured by the Ministry of Education under the Free Primary Education and Free Day Secondary School programmes.

In the statement, Mr Mundigi wanted the committee to inquire the amount of money under the programme and the final point of delivery of the centrally procured textbooks and other tuition materials by the Ministry of Education, stating whose responsibility it is to deliver the materials to schools as per the agreement between the Ministry and the publishers and vendors.

“The committee should also outline any plans by the ministry to ensure the centrally procured materials are delivered to schools and not at the sub-county education offices as is currently the case,” said Mr Mundigi.

Weighing in on the issue, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot accused the government of “playing ping-pong” with the policy.

He said the centralised procurement system was introduced in 2015 because teachers were buying books at exaggerated amounts.

Procure books

To save taxpayers’ money, the national government decided to procure the books before sending them to schools. However, according to the Kericho senator, the policy was abused, forcing a revert to the decentralisation policy four years ago after it emerged that some schools were supplied books yet they did not have a store or teachers to teach the subjects.

“The ministry then reverted to the old policy order because one school in Kakamega would buy a textbook for Sh500 and another school in Vihiga, just next door, would buy it for Sh750. A somewhat logical argument was presented and it was said why not centralise,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

He said the centralised system has led to a situation where some schools may not need books that the national government will send them. He called for the establishment of a safety measure that a school must first request for particular books.

He further argued that, should there be a shift, then the ministry should provide a pricing list.

“The schools will also know that they are not allowed to purchase Kiswahili Mufti (if it still exists), for more than Sh450,” he said.