Retired President Mwai Kibaki (pictured) awarded scholarships running into millions of shillings to two of his nephew’s children, it has emerged.
Former Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura made the revelation yesterday when he appeared before MPs investigaing how Ian Nderitu Githinji and Sandra Njeri Githinji were flown to Australia for studies at taxpayers’ expense.
The two are children of Philip Githinji, Kibaki’s nephew.
Muthaura told National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that Kibaki directed him to write to the then Higher Education Permanent Secretary Crispus Kiamba, instructing him to grant the scholarship.
The Ministry of Education spent Sh8.6 million (AU$119,560) to cater for tuition, accommodation and upkeep for the two in their first year of study and went on to pay for Sandra’s undergraduate studies plus Ian’s post-graduate.
Sandra was sponsored for a four-year undergraduate degree in Interior Design, while Ian was sponsored for two-and-a-half years to take a Masters in Analytics at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).
This means taxpayers may have spent more than Sh20 million to educate the two.
Yesterday, Muthaura told the committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi that Githinji, Kibaki’s nephew, had lost his job at Oil Libya and reached out to his uncle – then President – to assist the students through a Government-sponsored scholarship.
He said Githinji lost his job when he had already sent his two children to study engineering and architecture.
“After losing his job at Oil Libya, he tried to raise money through friends and relatives before he finally made a request to the President,” said Muthaura.
He said the President considered the appeal before asking him (Muthaura) to present the case to the Education Ministry for consideration.
“Githinji is nephew to the President. Nephews would go to their uncles for support,” he said.
This explanation was, however, rebuffed by Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who said the retired President should have used his personal money to support his family members.
“Supporting your nephew is not a bad thing, but you do not need to do it using taxpayers’ money,” said Mr Amollo.
It also emerged that the former President initially approved support for Ian but that this was later changed to include Sandra. “The President himself wrote to me on this matter and he later varied his earlier communication verbally to have the second student included,” said Muthaura.
University Education and Research Principal Secretary Collette Suda had told the committee due process was not followed in the matter.
“We have a committee that oversees the awarding of scholarships. But this case may have been handled differently,” said Prof Suda when she appeared before the team last week.