Fake papers: Anti-graft agency moves to tame academic documents forgery culture

Fake academic certificates

Fake academic certificates that were found with two suspects who were arrested in Eldoret town. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • EACC says it has intensified efforts to go after those using forged papers.
  • DP Gachagua recently admitted that as many as 10,000 government workers may be having fake academic papers.
  • EACC received 1,473 reports of falsification of academic documents by public and state officers by February 2024.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has released details of its battle with government officials who secured jobs using fake academic papers.

So dire is the situation that Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua recently admitted that as many as 10,000 government workers may be having fake academic papers.

The situation also puts the integrity of reputable learning institutions at risk, as the EACC says it has intensified efforts to go after those using forged papers.

The commission says it has been receiving cases of individuals who used forged academic and professional certificates to get civil service jobs by altering their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination grades to gain entry into higher education institutions.

In total, the commission received 1,473 reports of falsification of academic documents by public and state officers by February 2024.

EACC, whose Chief Executive is Mr Twalib Mbarak, has filed 24 cases in court involving top government officials, governors and their executives, securing seven convictions.

The commission has 1,337 cases still under investigation. It has made recoveries from suspects of at least Sh12.8 million.

Details by the agency show how institutions’ academic credentials have been forged and used to secure jobs in the public service.

EACC chief executive officer Twalib Mbarak

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chief executive officer Twalib Mbarak. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The culprits have also forged diploma and university degree certificates.

Commissions, counties and independent offices, including the Public Service Commission (PSC), have been advertising job vacancies and the qualifications required.

Institutions that have fallen prey include Parliament, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Teachers Service Commission.

Some suspects even serve in very senior positions.

The latest report by the EACC categorises the crime into three: those seeking employment in public service, those due for promotion and those de-designated.

The EACC has focused on forgery of academic certificates in counties, commissions, independent offices, universities and colleges.

Similarly, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations is targeting ministries, departments and agencies.

Analysts say the situation is a true reflection of a society whose citizens glorify fakes and take shortcuts to earn money and positions.

Political analyst and senior lecturer at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Samuel Okuro, says the demand for academic qualification in employment has led to the menace.

“It is rampant because people are looking for formal jobs,” Mr Okuro says.

“There is a weak framework in detecting fake papers. The system is not foolproof. That is why some Kenyans are rushing to backstreet colleges in the country and elsewhere to get papers.”

He says tribalism and nepotism in public service are to blame, adding that people in power are not interested in merit but creating opportunities for friends, cronies and relatives.

“There is no proper scrutiny of the papers presented by jobseekers. The hiring lacks proper checks too. The problem is now being reported in devolved governments,” he noted.

Mr Okuro questions the capacity of the Commission for University Education (CUE) to scrutinise papers, including those flagged by investigating agencies.

“How does an employee come back later and report that his or her papers are forged? Whatever is happening is negligence on the part of the employer,” he says.

Last month, Mr Mbarak extended an amnesty to public workers with forged papers to own up, promising to consider alternative dispute resolution mechanisms available in law to resolve their cases if they refund the money earned illegally.

“Our aim is to reclaim public resources acquired illegally. Public institutions at the county and national governments should suspend payments until investigations are complete,” the EACC boss said.

Some employees hurriedly resigned or sought early retirement after being implicated in the scandal.

The other challenge the EACC is dealing with is impersonation.

There are other individuals who get admitted to a university programme but fail to complete studies. Later, they forge degree and diploma certificates that they use to secure government jobs. Some people have never set foot in institutions they claim to have been to.

In 2022, the commission wrote to universities, the Commission for University Education, the Kenya National Qualification Authority and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec), raising concerns on the rampant falsifying and forgery of academic certificates.

“This is appalling and presents a direct threat to the integrity of our education system as well as compromising the value of public service,” read the letter by EACC Deputy Chief Executive Abdi Mohamud.

“There is a need to interlink the systems of archiving academic records to make them more easily accessible for verification by other stakeholders, including fellow academic institutions, government agencies and law enforcement bodies, in a manner that will deter forgery and falsification.”

During the Third National Wage Bill Conference in Nairobi recently, Mr Gachagua urged President William Ruto to take action by first weeding out those with fake certificates.

“The assignment is tedious. I don’t know where you will start and I don’t see any other person who can handle it. It requires a decision at your level,” the Deputy President said.

Mr Gachagua said it is a shame to see top government officials, governors and politicians with fake degrees attending the President’s events “without a modicum of shame”.

According to the Election Law, a person may be nominated as a candidate if he or she is qualified.

Anyone who wants to be president, deputy president, governor or deputy governor must have a degree from a recognised university.

MPs, governors, county executives and ward representatives have been arraigned for having forged papers.

Among those convicted for falsifying of academic certificates are John Chacha Nyamohanga, Evans Nyaoga Rambeka, Penina Wambui Karomoh, Lilian Akoth Ochieng, Pauline Anyango and Robert Kibe Githongo.

Institutions whose documents have been forged include Knec, Premese Africa Development Institute, Kenya Institution of Management and Technical University of Kenya.

The universities include Moi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Usiu, Maseno, Multi-Media, Kenya Methodist and Daystar.

Individuals with cases in court include Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, David Maswai, Godfrey Nzili, Gabriel Chapia, Irene Chesang, Allan Mutunga, Dickson Gitari and Hosea Kanda.

In January, EACC arrested Garissa Water and Sewage Company MD Dolai Mohamed Mohamud on claims of falsifying his KCSE certificate.

Early this month, the commission charged former General Manager, Finance and ICT at Rural Electrification and Renewal Energy Corporation Noah Oketch Oluoch with forging academic certificates.

robala@ke, nationmedia.com