Learners from poor families who depend on bursaries to pay fees risk being turned away when schools reopen on Monday following a delay by to disburse National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) cash.
The National Treasury has not disbursed even a shilling to the 290 constituencies since last July, threatening the learning of thousands of needy students.
The fund is disbursed quarterly, implying that the constituencies should by now have received 75 per cent of the monies. Members of Parliament yesterday described the delay as an “extremely unfortunate state of affairs.”
Some MPs said they had issued out bursary forms but have no money to give the needy students. The lawmakers last month staged a walkout from the House to protest the delay in releasing over Sh53.3 billion NG-CDF cash.
The law sets aside 2.5 per cent of the total revenue raised nationally to be shared out among the constituencies.
According to the new Constituency Development Act, the money allocated for bursaries was increased from 35 percent to 40 percent. It means that, out of the Sh53.3 billion, some Sh21.2 billion would go towards bursaries.
The Division of Revenue Act provides for the equitable division of revenue raised nationally between the two levels of government.
In the 2022/2023 financial year, the National Treasury allocated the NG-CDF Sh44.3 billion.
Constituencies get different allocations depending on the number of wards and the money raised nationally.
For instance, constituencies with four wards get about Sh155 million, those with five wards get Sh160 million, those with six and seven wards get about Sh170 million while those with eight wards get about Sh180 million.
Last month, President William Ruto and the National Treasury had assured MPs that the funds would be disbursed before schools reopen.
“I want to assure members that there are resources for our children to go to school. That is not negotiable. We will stop other items,” said President Ruto.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u on Tuesday did not respond to our inquiries on when the money would be disbursed.
Yesterday, several MPs said they are staring at a major crisis, with learners and their parents camping at CDF offices.
Meanwhile, the National Parents Association (NPA) has appealed to the National Treasury to speedily release the fund to prevent paralysis of learning in schools from next week.
“We have seen MPs issue forms to learners but there is no assurance when the money will be available,” said NPA chairperson Silas Obuhatsa.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said many learners now risk failing to report back to school on Monday.
“Chances are that a majority of students who depend on the NG- CDF bursary will not report back to school on Monday,” said Mr Wandayi.
Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia urged Prof Ndung’u to urgently release the funds to the constituencies as he had promised that the money will be available by the end of December last year.
“Treasury must release capitation for schools as a matter of priority and must not tamper with the amounts owed,” he said.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo termed the situation as dire, saying, MPs are under immense pressure from parents.
“The need is high and there is no money. For instance, on a daily basis, I receive 100 requests from parents who want to be helped. Some have children who have been called to join good schools but they have no money,” he said.
Dr Amolo told Nation that MPs have not received any communication from Treasury on when the money will be released. He accused the exchequer of taking advantage of the long recess by parliament to drag its feet.
“If a government cannot release money as mandated by law, then such a government should just resign,” Dr Amolo said.
Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said MPs are now forced to help some needy cases out-of-pocket.
“I have a case in my constituency of a girl who scored 398 in the KCPE [Kenya Certificate of Primary Education] exam and has no money to join Form One. I have been forced to pay for her from my own pocket,” he said.
“Those of us passionate about education have been forced to chip in from our own pocket, especially for the most needy cases,” said Saboti MP Caleb Amisi.
Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu said they expected the money by December 20.
“We are in a dilemma as MPs. Even if you are willing to help using personal resources, the demand is overwhelming. Parents are flocking our offices but we have nothing to give,” he said.
He said 2023 was a difficult year for most parents, who had little left to save for school fees and are relying entirely on bursaries.
Some MPs are, however, optimistic that Treasury will release the funds in good time. Some said CDF boards should be able to
readjust their budgets and free some money for bursaries. “Treasury is yet to release the fund, but what we know is that the money will be released by next week. The process of selection of bursary beneficiaries is currently going on in many constituencies. By the time it is concluded, the money will be ready,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa.
“I don’t think principals will be sending learners home in the first week of opening. Fund managers should also be able to reallocate money from non-priority areas and use it to pay bursaries,” added Mr Barasa.
Similar views were shared by Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, who added that, should the delay continue, he would reallocate money set aside for other projects and channel them to fund learning.
Suba South MP Caroli Omondi said his CDF board will from today start the selection of beneficiaries as they wait for the Treasury to disburse the funds.
Mr Omondi disclosed that his board will be issuing Sh10,000 for learners in secondary schools and Sh20,000 for those in tertiary institutions.
“Interested and needy students are requested to [visit their] respective polling stations,” Suba South Fund Manager Eric Kiraithe said in a public notice.
The constituency has planned for meetings today and tomorrow to select beneficiaries.
National Assembly Finance committee Chairman Kuria Kimani said the biggest fiscal pressure on the country had been the repayment of the Eurobond, which was settled last week. He expressed confidence that money will now be available to disburse to constituencies for bursaries.
Mr Kimani noted that CDF committees should continue issuing bursary forms and starting the vetting process as they wait for the funds.
“Issuance of bursaries is a process; it’s not just about giving out money. There is vetting to be done, which can go on so that, when the money comes, it’s released to the schools,” he said.
He additionally urged CDF committees to align their proposals with the new guidelines, saying, even if the exchequer is ready with the money, they cannot release it without committees meeting all guidelines.
Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda said the delay was a major source of concern for MPs.
“We are concerned because schools are reopening and bursaries are critical to students. They promised to release the funds as soon as possible,” said Mr Jhanda.