Enhancing the Ability of Citizens to Monitor the use of Public Resources
The advent of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003 not only increased enrolment rates in public primary schools but also meant that all tax paying Kenyans would share in the responsibility of educating our children regardless of whether one has a school going child or not. As a result, Kenya’s budgetary allocation for the implementation of FPE has steadily increased from Kshs. 5.4 billion in 2003 to Kshs. 14. 1 Billion in 2015. This constitutes an average of 6.4% of GDP (or 17% of the annual budget).
Kenya herald a new legal regime in August 2010 with the promulgation of the current Constitution. The new legal regime is centred on transparent, participatory and accountable use of public resources. The right of citizens to access information held by the state is provided for under Article 35 and is further buttressed by the Access to Information Act 2016 which gives effect to Article 35 and confers on the Commission on Administrative Justice the oversight and enforcement functions and powers in ensuring its implementation. Public participation is provided for under the Constitution as one of the national values and principles of governance in addition to being one of the objectives for the adoption of the devolved system of governance. The Constitution further provides for public participation as one of the principles of public finance in addition to responsible financial management and clear fiscal reporting.
The Bill of Rights also recognises education as an economic and social right. To give effect to the provisions of the Constitution, the Government enacted the Basic Education Act 2013 and the Regulations of 2015 which incorporate participatory, transparent and accountable legal frameworks. Among the principles enshrined under the Act include: Accountability and democratic decision making within the institutions of basic education; Promotion of good governance, participation and inclusiveness of parents, communities, private sector and other stakeholders in the development and management of basic education; and, Transparency and cost effective use of educational resources and sustainable implementation of educational services. The Act further provides for the establishment of Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations which also have a role in the management of public primary schools.
It has however been established through successive audit reports that funds utilization at public primary schools has been wanting with reported irregularities in the procurement of textbooks and outright disregard by some managers of public primary schools of government policies and legislation. Poor and inadequate infrastructure for schools has also been identified as a challenge in public primary schools within Nairobi County.
Approaches and results
Transparency International Kenya has with the partnership of other organisations and the support of development partners implemented various initiatives in the education sector to track the flow and utilisation of public resources. The findings in this policy brief are as a result of implementing studies in targeted institutions, engaging stakeholders including public officials and the general public on issues affecting the education sector. These studies have mainly focused on flow and utilisation of public resources in Nairobi, Kwale, Kisumu and Trans Nzoia Counties and protection of land belonging to public learning institutions in Nairobi and Kwale counties.
Among the programmes implemented in this regard include the Action for Transparency (A4T) project piloted in Embakasi sub-county within Nairobi County aimed at empowering citizens to monitor the use of public resources at public primary schools and report suspected mismanagement of funds. The project makes use of a set of secure tools including carrying out a Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) to collect financial information from public primary schools for dissemination to the public through the use of mobile and web based platforms.
PETS is a process used to track the flow of resources through various strata of government in order to determine how much of the originally allocated public resources reach each level. A PETS tool is designed to study the flow of public funds across various levels of administrative units with a view of identifying the sources of revenue, any leakages in flow of funds and utilization at the institutional level. The use of PETS helps in identifying hidden sources of revenue, identify leakages in flow of resources and determine instances of misappropriation of public funds meant for development.
Within the land sector, TI-Kenya has engaged in initiatives aimed at securing public land belonging to public schools. This has been made possible through a network of organisations known as ‘Shule Yangu’ Alliance. The Shule Yangu Alliance for the protection of public schools is a nationwide campaign by stakeholders from the Government, Public and Private sector working together to protect public schools against illegal land-grabbers, support the government to issue title-deeds to public schools, and support communities to own their schools.
TI-Kenya also engaged stakeholders within the education in accessing information in relation to utilisation of public funds and safeguarding public resources at the schools. Among the stakeholders engaged include the management at the schools including head teachers, Boards of Management, Parents’ Associations and the sub-county and county officials.
Summary of findings
The findings discussed in this policy brief cover three general areas of concern including: public participation and involvement; resource flow and utilisation of public resources including public land belonging to learning institutions; and the role of school programmes in enhancing Constitutionally recognised national values.
Public participation and involvement
It was generally established that public participation and involvement in the affairs of public primary schools is accomplished through the Boards of Management (BoM) and Parents Associations (PAs) as per legal requirements. It was however noted that these groups are not adequately capacitated to effectively participate and contribute to the affairs of the schools especially in relation to utilisation of public resources. At the centre of the lack of capacity for effective participation is the inadequacy of information necessary for the public to be involved in the development affairs of the schools. School managements have grappled with the need to fully involve management committees and parents in the development process but this has largely been hampered mainly by the following factors:
- Inefficient accounting systems which rely on manual processes that are time consuming and prone to errors;
- Poor book keeping practises which make it difficult to retrieve required information and present information in a presentable and easily accessible manner;
- Lack of administrative support staff especially such as school bursars to handle accounts and advice BoMs on prudent use of funds received by the schools;
- Inadequate ICT infrastructure for record keeping and dissemination of information relating to the schools to the management committees and other stakeholders including parents and development partners;
The study has established that there is a data gap on expenditure at school level. The scarcity of information and its inaccessibility to the general public produce opportunity for corruption. Without comprehensive financial data it is not possible to have any civilian oversight. Public participation and involvement in affairs of the public is a Constitutional requirement which is supported by the legal framework for the education sector establishing Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations involved in management of learning institutions. To effectively ensure that the participatory legal framework works out, the need for access to information is paramount.
Resource flow and utilisation
School managements confirmed that the system of disbursing money directly to schools is generally effective. However, the study established that the most common challenge in disbursements from the government is the delay in funds remittance which sometimes takes up to two months after schools have opened. Further, the findings indicate that various education stakeholders including the Ministry of Education officials were questioning the use of money by schools especially on the high recurrent costs for purchase of textbooks.
The study established that some challenges resulting in vulnerabilities of the schools to mismanagement of funds include:
- Poor record keeping, poor accounting systems and procedures;
- Community/parents limited commitment and capacity to monitor and control the use of school funds;
- Weak supervision, accounting and monitoring systems, and lack of effective auditing and supervision;
- Inflexible budgeting process in recognition of the different needs at different schools leading to inadequate funding;
- It was also established that other sources of funding for the schools in addition to the Free Primary Education funds from Government are not properly recorded and accounted for;
- Infrastructural failures at majority of the schools that do not inspire confidence in the education system by both the learners and other stakeholders involved in identifying skills useful for different sectors;
- Delay in disbursement of funds from Government was identified as a challenge in effective utilisation of resources and coordinated development activities at the schools.
The efficiency of the education sector was also brought to sharp focus in view of the amount of resources dedicated to the sector which do not correspond to the quality of services.
Promotion of national values
The National Values enshrined under Article 10 of the Constitution are not generally reflected in the primary, secondary and tertiary curriculum and practices at learning institutions. There has however been marked improvement in entrenching some of the values under the Constitution in learning institutions especially in relation to creating governance structures which allow for students’ participation. Existing courses and programmes have however been found to fall short in the following areas:
- Fostering nationalism, patriotism and promoting national unity;
- Recognising diversity of skills and talents and promoting the progressive identification and mentoring of talents;
- Establishing effective mentorship programmes in professional and social spaces;
- Promoting novelty, innovation and self-reliance where learners are able to identify the importance of intellectual ownership;
- Promoting transparency and accountability in management of learning institutions
The government through the Ministry of Education Science and Technology should put in place deliberate measures that aim at ensuring that there are transparent and accountable management processes in learning institutions with adequate measures for public participation and involvement.
Use of ICT for school management
ICT has been identified as a key enabler in the efficient and effective delivery of services. This study recommends the roll out of a web based school management system that shall incorporate the financial management issues and the academic reporting systems of the schools. To increase access, the system should be accessible both on desktop computers and on mobile phones. This would enable head teachers maintain up to date books of accounts, reduce the demand for auditing of schools and increase accountability.
The Constitution and other enabling laws in the education sector provide for a participatory legal framework centred on the participation and involvement of management committees and parents’ associations in the management of learning institutions. The BoMs and Parents’ Associations need enhanced capacity building to effectively take up this mandate and also incorporate the participation of the greater public in managing affairs of learning institutions.
There is need to develop participatory mechanisms and sensitise citizens including parents so that they may effectively play their oversight role in the provision of Free Primary Education. This includes sensitization on provisions of policies and provisions in legislations such as the Basic Education Act, 2012. Parents and guardians also need to be sensitised on their legal obligations in ensuring that they promote the right to education for their children. This includes their role in providing pupils with conducive social environment for upright upbringing, provision of school implements including uniforms and sending pupils to school.
Needs based budgeting
The study recommends a review of the budgeting process at the schools to include a standardised needs assessment of all public learning institutions. A needs assessment spearheaded by the management committees and the sub-county education officials will be useful in determining the infrastructural needs of all schools which may be quantified in monetary terms and the allocations for funds adjusted to reflect the needs of particular schools. This assessment should inform the allocation of funds under the GPA account on the Repairs, Maintenance and Infrastructure vote head which have generally been found to be inadequate.
Timely release of FPE funds
The National Government through the National Treasury should ensure timely release of funds meant for the provision of FPE services as delay in the release of funds affects the quality of services offered at the schools and relations with suppliers. To mitigate the challenges faced with delayed disbursements, respondents recommend the disbursements of funds to the schools during the holidays to allow proper planning and expenditure of the funds as the terms commence.
Enhance accounting and audit systems and processes
The study also recommends that Sub-County Education departments should have the capacity to conduct audits in the schools under their jurisdiction through a continuous monitoring process that enables supervisors at the sub-county level execute timely remedial measures. Government policy should make the Sub-County Education Boards more active in monitoring public service delivery in public schools especially in relation to utilisation of FPE funds and general management of learning institutions.
Also published on Medium.