Kenya: 250,000 civil servants face the axe over fake academic papers

By Stanley Kimuge


More than 250,000 civil servants are facing the axe and heavy financial penalties for using fake academic certificates to gain employment.


Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA), the state agency involved in vetting academic certificates, yesterday announced plan to audit civil servants' academic qualifications, in a move that will also see the certificate cheats surcharged up to three times their earnings during employment.


KNQA's preliminary assessment indicates that three in every 10 civil servants may have used fake certificates to gain entry into public service.


"This (audit) is a programme that will start as soon as the next financial year. If we find that you used a fake certificate to get employment in civil service, then you are liable to return what you have earned all those years, three-fold. You are also liable to criminal prosecution," said KNQA director general Dr Juma Mukhwana yesterday on the sidelines of a conference on the research and innovation for sustainable development at the Eldoret National Polytechnic.


Dr Mukhwana said the agency is working with the Director of Public Prosecutions and Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to crack down on the culprits.


In the audit, Dr Mukhwana said, the agency will cross check employee's stated qualifications, their certificates and institutions where they got them from.


Holding fake certificates


"Our estimate is that 30 per cent of the certificates are fake. It is very unfair that I sit in a university for four years, and someone else just gets a similar certificate in five minutes. You even find some cases where one has a degree purported to have been acquired long before he supposedly cleared his secondary education," the agency boss said.


Dr Mukhwana said the agency has an anonymous portal where members of the public service and any other Kenyan can report those they suspect of holding fake certificates.


"You can anonymously report that your fellow co-employee has a fake certificate and we shall take it up. You don't have to reveal yourself and that is why we need collaborative mechanisms to end this menace in our country," said Dr Mukhwana.


KNQA categorizes fake certificates in three phases: Those earned from institutions not accredited to offer one; those where one did not meet the entry requirements of the certificate, and lastly, those that the person never went to the university or college at all.


"You have cases where someone claims to have a university degree from outside Kenya, yet they have never owned a passport. So, how did you get your certificate from that university abroad, then? Those kinds of things where no online learning was involved. Or sometimes you have a passport, but no study visa. Same thing. How then were you there for four years with no visa?" Dr Mukhwana said.


Standing at Sh620 billion annually, the public payroll gobbles up half of tax collections to remunerate 842,000 public officials who represent less than two per cent of the population.


National assessment


The public wage bill is 17 per cent above the global average of 35 per cent for middle-income countries, a club that Kenya recently joined after recalculating its economic size.


Dr Mukhwana also disclosed that KNQA had rolled out the national assessment in the various technical centers across the country in the next one month to facilitate the certification of the Jua kali artisans, a way to ensure they can compete for big tenders.


"Our economy is run by the Jua Kali who account for 80 per cent but don't have papers. You have the skill, then you get experts in the field who can certify you so that you can work in the country or other countries and this will be a game changer," he said.


President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the agency to come up with a comprehensive plan under which youths in the Jua Kali sector can be awarded certificates based on the skills they have acquired at work and without having to seek formal education.


The President said the policy would address unfairness in tendering for contracts, which often locks out Jua Kali artisans and craftsmen due to their lack of papers.


"I am announcing today a new initiative by my administration to provide a framework for recognition of the skills through awarding of certificates based on competence, to better enable them to participate in various economic opportunities," said President Kenyatta, during the Madaraka Day Celebrations in Kisumu.


This article was published by the Nation.