Magoha Strips Headteachers of Financial Powers

The Education ministry wants to strip public school principals of power to control monies sent to schools by the government, the Star can report.

The radical proposal is sure to create fierce resistance from principals and head teachers. It is believed, however, that other mangers of the purse strings will create a system with more accountability and fewer vested interests.

Under the proposed arrangement, the Education CS would be granted powers to appoint managers of school finances. The Star is in possession of the proposal documents.

In March during his vetting for CS, George Magoha put on notice corrupt persons in the education sector, saying it will not be business as usual. This could be the first radical move to make good his warning.

"I will not allow anybody to plunder public resources. I will do the work that President Uhuru Kenyatta has given me effectively," Magoha told the committee chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi.

The purse-strings proposal outlines two possibilities. One would have the CS  assign the school head as the finance manager or appoint an outside person, a non-teacher, to take charge of school resources and finances.

Should the second possibility be adopted, it will radically alter school operations as head teachers and principals now have had total reign over finances.

Their or the principals' role in financial management includes budgeting, accounting and internal auditing.

The proposal is among the ministry submissions to revise the Basic Education Act 2013. The law governs operations in primary and secondary schools.

It is currently in Parliament's Education Committee and is to discussed by the committee next week.

The proposal reads: "Create section 54(10) (a)... In accordance with the provision of section 53(2) the CS shall appoint a school manager to be in charge of school resources, finances and policy implementation."

The proposal also reduces powers of schools' boards of management (BOMs)  —the bodies that represent the CS in public school — as it would remove their powers to borrow money for the schools.

The proposal would also bar them from entering into contracts with any institution on behalf of the school.

This is the first time the Education CS has moved to have a hand in managing school finances. Under former Education CS Fred Matiang'i, the government purchased and distributed all textbooks.

Currently, all financial supervisory powers are vested in head teachers or principals, who are employees of the Teachers Service Commission.

The current situation means that the ministry cannot take direct action against a school head. It can only request the TSC to act.

The appointees of the CS would have absolute management of school finances and resources.

This would mean principals might no longer be signatories to school accounts and reduce them to supervisors who will solely oversee teaching and learning.

Institutions managing huge resources and finances would be the most affected by the proposal slashing their financial power. This would include notable national schools and some extra-county schools.

It will be the second time the ministry is rattling the school heads after a range of policies enacted last year in which the government retained some of the money for student capitation and provided services directly to the institutions.

The monies retained include funds allocated to learners to cater for the purchase of textbooks, Sh6,000 development funds and Sh300 health care.

This leaves secondary schools principals with just Sh10,000 of the Sh22,244 provided to each learner that subsidises their education.

Indimuli Kahi, chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, on Thursday, raised concern, saying that the principal should handle finances as they are responsible to the day to day running of the institutions.

"If the proposal goes as it is, then there will be a great disconnect between the use of finances and the actual needs of institutions," Kahi told the Star.

He said the problem is not how the institutions use funds but rather poor funding from the government.

"For example, since 2003 the government has not increased the initial amount of given to support Free Primary Education. This is not practical because even retail products in the market do not cost what they did back then," Kahi said.

However, sources at the Education Ministry said it has had a hard time ensuring accountability in schools as the principals are not directly under the ministry but the TSC.

"There have been cases where a principal is transferred from one school to another but they end up in an institution with huge liabilities from a different head that are unaccounted for... This was hugely witnessed when the delocalisation policy came into force," the source said.

Despite institutions having an accounting office, there are indications that the weak link lies in ensuring fiscal prudence as accountants are employed by the school management. The relationship exposes them to manipulation from the school heads.

The CS already has registered his discontent in the manner institutions manage funds.

For example, Magoha questions the high quotations used in building infrastructure such as classrooms and other facilities.

In the new proposal, the Cabinet Secretary has proposed a Sh100,000 fine or six months' imprisonment for principals who demand that learners to repeat classes — meaning more money and fees.

It further reaffirms outlawing holiday tuition.

Private schools will also be required to form a School Management Committee, which is similar to the BoMs in public schools, to oversee learners' welfare and curriculum implementation.

The proposal would also end formation of informal schools.

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