Dashed dreams for Kakamega students as county takes back Shs 108m

Monday, July 6th, 2020 00:00 |
The main gate to Butere Girls High School, Kakamega county. The school remains closed after the government shut all education institutions in March this year to stem the spread of Covid-19 infections in the country. Photo/PD/DOUGLAS DINDI

Thousands of students in Kakamega county are likely to miss out on secondary school bursaries after county officials failed to expedite transfer of Sh50 million from the ward bursary fund before the close of the last financial year ended June 30, 2020.

Scholar can report that a total Sh108 million from the Kakamega county education budget catering for education bursaries, county Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) and infrastructure improvement in vocational institutions was reverted to the national treasury last week at midnight June 30, 2020 as required by law after the amount failed to be absorbed.

Of the Sh108 million, Sh50 million was meant for secondary education bursaries, Sh20 million for undergraduate HELB loans and Sh38 million for equipping vocational colleges. The Sh50 million was to cater for bursaries in 25 wards.

The county government had budgeted Sh120 million for ward bursaries  in each of the 60 wards in Kakamega county.

In the previous year, successful applicants received a flat rate of Kshs 5,000 each paid directly to school bank accounts.

For the county HELB loan, 2019 successful applicants received a sum of  Sh13,000 for an academic year,  that was paid as tuition directly to the university bank accounts. 

Among wards that were shut out of the  bursaries include Shirere and Marama West wards.

Shirere ward Member of County Assembly (MCA) David Ikunza, however,  termed the reports as unfounded propaganda.

Ikunza said there was no cause for alarm as all schools remain closed and there would be nobody to be sent home for fees.

“I’ve consulted with Kakamega Muslim and Sheywe Secondary School principals who say that they had received their bursaries, and even if it was not disbursed,  it would not be an issue,” he said.

 The principals of the two schools could not confirm whether the bursaries received were drawn from Shirere ward bursary kitty.

Sources at Treasury claimed that Shirere ward bursary was riddled with unresolved disputes as late as July 2, while at Marama North ward, a dispute between the area MCA, Charles Nandwa and the ward administrator over the composition of beneficiaries triggered delays that resulted in the present predicament.

County officials in the finance and economic planning department and education officials revealed no record exists indicating the money was disbursed to the rightful cause before the June 30 deadline.

The county acting CEC finance and Treasury James Ochami confirmed cash transfers to a batch of bursaries applications from 35  wards that were effected by his predecessor John Imbogo, but would not comment on the remaining bursary applications from 25 wards whose arrival was delayed by disputes.

“No funds have reverted to the national treasury,” Ochami insisted, but remained noncommittal on why the county HELB portal remains shut and the fate of Sh38 million conditional grant for vocational training.

However, Kakamega County CEC for Education  Joseph Indire insisted that bursary applications from the 25 wards were submitted to the county treasury on time.

“We processed the list of beneficiaries for payment and submitted it to the county treasury for action,” he said, adding that he was aware successful bursary applications from 35 wards were processed and sent to schools, but declined to comment on the final batch saying treasury was better placed to explain the whereabouts of the second batch.

It would be a sad day for the bright and needy students from poor households if indeed their bursaries were not disbursed on time before the money was swept back.

Scholar also established that Kakamega county HELB portal has, contrary to tradition, remained inaccessible for applications to date and a number of county polytechnic principals disclosed that they have not received funds to buy equipment.

James Barasa, a second-year student at Maseno university, pursuing Actuarial Science, noted that  the county has not advertised for the loans, which usually happen in the month of May.

“This is strange considering that at such a time last year the portal was closing,” he said.

 Asked to comment on this issue, Ochami was vague on whether the Sh20 million annual deposit was required to unlock the portal for loan  applications.

The national government gave Kakamega county a condition grant of Sh76 million disbursed from treasury in two equal batches of Sh38 million.

The second batch has been lying at the county treasury over the past four months as officials toyed with the idea of whether or not to release the funds to the institutions.

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