Shocking Scholarship Scandal: Where Did the Funds Go?
In a stunning turn of events, Uasin Gishu Senator Jackson Mandago, has been arrested over allegations of embezzlement involving the Finland scholarships scandal. The scandal revolves around the misappropriation of over Ksh1.1 billion meant for overseas university fees for students participating in the Uasin Gishu County Overseas Education Programme.
The saga began when suspicions arose regarding the legitimacy and transparency of the Finland and Canada Overseas Education Programme. The scholarships, initially intended to offer educational opportunities to hundreds of graduates, became marred with questions about their true purpose and usage of funds.
Mandago, who was also the governor when the airlift program was conceived, has found himself at the center of a storm, with investigations aiming to shed light on the financial mismanagement of the initiative. Despite Mandago’s claims that the program was not a scholarship, rather a financial aid mechanism, the county’s handling of funds has raised serious doubts.
As the ongoing investigation delves into the matter, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) issued arrest warrants for Mandago and his three alleged accomplices, Joseph Maritim, Meshack Rono, and Joshua Lelei.
The court had directed that Mandago and his alleged accomplices be arrested.“The warrants of arrest are hereby issued against the four accused persons, to be arrested within the next week,” stated Judge Ndege at Nakuru Law courts, “..and brought before the court to answer to the said charge and to be further dealt with by the law,” this was after he failed to present himself to the court for plea taking. These officials are facing multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit felony, theft, abuse of office, and forgery.
Prior to his arrest, Senator Mandago had expressed his intent to corporate with law enforcement, “There are rumours all over Eldoret Town that DCI Officers have been looking for me the whole night. As a law-abiding citizen, I am available once summoned. I have met with the leadership of parents and agreed on the way forward as per their press statement issued last evening,” posted Mandago on X (formerly Twitter).
The allegations against them center around their alleged collaboration to siphon off Ksh1.1 billion from an account registered under the Uasin Gishu Education Trust Fund. This fund was established to support the overseas university fees of deserving students. It’s reported that by December 2022, over Ksh957 million had been credited to the account, with Ksh257 million being deducted to facilitate students’ travel for the overseas programs.
The scandal’s repercussions have been significant, with angry parents and affected graduates demanding accountability and refunds from the county government. Protests have erupted in Uasin Gishu, as hundreds of parents and students express their frustration at being let down by a program that promised to provide life-changing educational opportunities.
The gravity of the situation escalated when a Nakuru court issued arrest warrants for the four accused officials after they failed to appear for plea-taking. The court ordered their immediate arrest and appearance to face the charges brought against them.
As the country grapples with this scandal, politicians and leaders have weighed in on the issue. President William Ruto, speaking in Eldoret town, expressed his disappointment and called for those responsible for the alleged embezzlement to return the money.
“Kama kuna mtu alikula iyo pesa ajipange kulipa mapema ama ataingia taabani,” warned President Ruto, “I will not allow them(suspects) to get away with this crime,” he added
He reiterated that such financial improprieties cannot be tolerated, especially when education and young people’s futures are at stake.
In a surprising twist, Senator Mandago’s whereabouts became a mystery, prompting the National Police Service (NPS) to issue an appeal for his surrender. Mandago, in response, stated that he was a law-abiding citizen and ready to cooperate with the authorities. His situation has garnered attention, with speculation swirling about his potential involvement and the extent of his accountability in the scandal.
The case is set to continue as the legal proceedings unfold, with the accused officials facing an array of serious charges. The scandal has exposed the vulnerabilities in public financial management systems, raising concerns about transparency and accountability at various levels of governance.
While investigations into the Finland scholarships scandal continue, the case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of upholding integrity and ethics in public service. As the legal process unfolds, the citizens of Uasin Gishu and the entire nation will be watching closely to see if justice is served and the truth is revealed behind the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the education of young students.