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Report: Education ministry fails to use Sh10bn

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By OUMA WANZALA
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The Ministry of Education was unable to utilise Sh10 billion allocated to it by the National Treasury in the last financial year, a report by the Auditor-General Edward Ouko revealed.

This is despite the fact that lecturers were on strike for 75 days demanding a salary increase while universities were facing a serious cash crunch due to alleged low funding.

Mr Ouko, in a report tabled in the National Assembly, has reprimanded the university education department for failing to use the cash by last year.

Mr Ouko says the sector was allocated Sh100 billion comprising Sh4.3 billion for development and Sh96 billion for recurrent expenditure.

Out of the recurrent expenditure, the ministry was unable to use Sh9.6 billion.

“There is need for the department to relook at its budgeting mechanism with a view to budget for priority areas to avoid over budgeting. There is also a need, therefore, for the ministry to plan a realistic budget with the resources available,” says Mr Ouko.

The two-month strike paralysed learning in universities and the government offered the lecturers Sh3.6 billion.

They, however, rejected the offer. University managers have been appealing for more funding from the government with almost all of them failing to submit statutory deductions to various agencies.

In the report, Mr Ouko has also put the ministry on the spot over the transfer of Sh279 million and Sh935 million to Kisii and Moi universities respectively.

He says a review of the records maintained by the ministry revealed that Sh145.7 million disbursed to Kisii University in respect of an ICT theatre was based on interim certificates covering the period September 16, 2011 to April 2, 2013.

“However, no supporting information was made available to ascertain that these bills were pending. In addition, Moi University was paid Sh33.4 million in respect of construction of a library annex out of which Sh14 million and Sh18 million relate to interim certificates dating back to September 25, 2012,” says Mr Ouko.

The auditor general also states that a further Sh76 million was disbursed for the construction of a 2,250-capacity student hostel between March 2010 and September 2012 and satisfactory reasons were given for the delay in settling these long-standing debts.

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Mr Ouko also says no documents were provided for consultancies provided by the University of Nairobi Enterprise Ltd to develop research funding guidelines at Sh10 million.

There are also no documents showing how Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology was selected to develop a regional human resource strategy for implementation of the northern corridor integration projects at Sh130 million.

Mr Ouko also says the State Department of University had pending bills totalling Sh1.3 billion, which were not settled in the 2017/2018, but were carried forward to the 2018/2019 financial year.

“Out of Sh1.3 billion bills, Sh1 billion relate to recurrent vote while the balance Sh285 million relate to development vote. Had the bills been settled and the expenditure accounted for in 2017/2018, the financial statement for the year ended June 30, 2018 would have reflected a deficit (excess vote) of Sh1.3 billion instead of the deficit of Sh314 million now reflected for the year ended June 30, 2018,” reads the report.

At the University of Eldoret, the institution is on the spot over misappropriation of millions of shillings.

In a report, Mr Ouko has also reprimanded the university management led by Prof Teresia Akenga over its failure to submit statutory deductions to various government agencies.

Mr Ouko says the university failed to pay Sh97.4 million to relevant agencies as statutory deductions and the university has total liabilities of Sh720 million.

Mr Ouko also says log books of 40 motor vehicles at the university are registered in the name of Moi University while one vehicle is registered in the name of Wilfred Kipkorir Sang.

At Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, the audit report indicates the university expenditure budget was Sh3.9 billion but actual expenditure was Sh3.5 billion.

The university also budgeted to collect Sh4 billion but collected Sh3.8 billion, resulting in a shortfall.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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