MPs question rationale behind payment of school fees via e-Citizen

Members of the National Assembly's Education Committee led by Chairman Julius Melly in a past press conference. They have raised pertinent issues surrounding President Ruto's directive to have all school fees paid via e-Citizen.

The National Assembly’s Education Committee has questioned the rationale behind President William Ruto’s directive to have all school fees paid via e-citizen.

In a meeting with Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary (PS) Julius Bitok yesterday, the lawmakers said there are number of issues that need to be addressed by the executive in relation to the new payment channel before any implementation is done.

Led by the committee Chair Tinderet MP Julius Melly, the MPs wanted to know how viable and reliable the new system is, saying it must be efficient enough to allow schools to access funds to pay suppliers, support staff and buy stationery on a daily basis.

The legislators also raised concerns over internet connectivity, maintaining that most schools, especially those in rural areas, will not be able to use the system where there are also challenges of electricity.

Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera questioned the sincerity of the system, citing Treasury’s history of delays in allocation of capitation to schools.

“Treasury is the most notorious institution in this country because they delay even the allocation of capitation funds. So what guarantee do we have that the same won’t be witnessed with fees paid through the e-citizen?”  Nabwera posed.

Further concern was raised by Clive Gisairo, MP Kitutu Masaba, who observed that the e-Citizen requirement would not prevent schools from soliciting for additional cash outside the platform as claimed by the executive.

Gisairo also queried the service charge levied on users, which he said would be an additional burden to parents.

“You are saying that the system will make it cheaper for parents to pay fees; no! It will actually be more expensive because each transaction there is a Ksh50 service fee,” he said.

The legislators also questioned the legality of the President’s directive, saying it was not subjected to public participation as required by law.

They added that there was no Bill before Parliament to guide the process, making its implementation illegal.

“As the oversight committee of the Ministry of Education, we are yet to see any legislative proposal on this system,” said Nabwera.

The committee also wants the government to explain how parents who pay fees through other non-monetary means such as grain, firewood, vegetables and animals will use the platform.

Bitok defended the system on behalf of the ministry, saying transactions will be exempted from the service fees.

“Parents will not pay Ksh50 service fee, although all other government services have to pay the service fee,” Bitok said.

Emphasizing on the government’s commitment to using technology to improve efficiency, the PS assured the committee that the platform was designed to ensure real time transfer of funds to school accounts, eliminating delays associated with Treasury disbursement processes.

“This money does not remain at Treasury or the e-Citizen account. We have a system called T-plus that allows it (to) go through Treasury but automatically settled to the school account,” he said, adding that it would enhance visibility and transparency in schools.

As the country waits for the court to rule on the matter, the committee members want the MoE to conduct a public consultation.

”We need confirmation that as the court makes a decision, the ministry will conduct a thorough public participation because this matter has raised a lot of questions,” said Marakwet West MP Timothy Kipchumba.

In January, Basic Education PS Dr Belio Kipsang’ announced that parents will now be mandated to pay fees for their children through the government’s online platform, e-Citizen.

According to the PS, this is an effort to on-board all government services onto the e-Citizen platform to enhance service delivery and also seal loopholes through which parents are exploited by paying extra cash to schools.

However, the directive was suspended by the High Court due various legal reasons.

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By Brian Ndigo

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