The Ministry of Education is on the spot over whether the taxpayer got value for money in the Sh1.9 billion supply of personal desks in public schools meant to facilitate safe learning.
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu has questioned the failure by the ministry to provide procurement records proving there was competitive selection of artisans and the quality of the supplies.
The State engaged artisans in September 2020 to supply 650,000 locally made desks to public primary and secondary schools ahead of learners resuming physical classes.
“Procurement records to ascertain value for money, quality of the supplies, how uniform prices were arrived at in all counties and competition among artisans were not provided for audit review,” said Ms Gathungu in the report for the year to June 2021.
The Treasury allocated Sh1.9 billion under the Economic Stimulus Programme to ensure each pupil gets a spacious personal desk and at the same time cushion artisans from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The State invited carpenters to register with Deputy County Commissioners to be considered for supply of public schools desks where they were expected to submit details of their monthly sales turnover, employee numbers, M-Pesa and bank details.
It was expected that the primary school desks would cost Sh2,500 each while lockers and chairs would cost Sh3,800 under the plan.
“Details on how the needs assessment was identified was not provided and social distancing in secondary schools could not have been achieved through an increased number of lockers without the corresponding increase in number of classrooms,” said Ms Gathungu.
Thousands of children resumed in-person learning on January 4, 2021, the first time since March 2020, amid challenges of social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 in schools. It was expected that the desks with large writing surface and space to hold books would be spaced to achieve the one-metre distance prescribed by the Ministry of Health.
The Auditor-General further questioned the spending of Sh10.2 million on staff as a daily subsistence allowance to monitor the distribution of the desks and lockers saying the expenditure was against the law.