Kenya: Former Education Official Jailed for Stealing Public Funds

A former Ministry of Education official has been jailed for two-and-a-half years without the option of a fine for stealing Sh1.5 million in public funds.

Ms Concelia Aoko Ondiek, who was acting director of secondary and tertiary education, was jailed last week by chief magistrate Lawrence Mugambi after ruling that she was a repeat offender.

Her co-accused, Ms Christine Wegesa Chacha, who was a senior education officer was ordered to pay a fine of Sh1 million or serve one year in jail, in default.

This is the second time Ms Ondiek has been convicted and sentenced for stealing public funds, forgery and false accounting. The first conviction was about a decade ago.

She had initially been sentenced to serve two years in jail, after she was found guilty of filing false receipts in order to steal Sh1.06 million, which she said was meant for purchase of stationery during a workshop for principals from the Coast region in June 2009.

The sentence was later reduced to 18 months with the option of paying a Sh1.1 million fine after she appealed. Another case against Ms Ondiek and other former officials in the ministry is pending determination before the anti-corruption court.

Last week, Mr Mugambi said the former education official pocketed Sh1.5 million, which were meant to facilitate needs assessment workshop for principals in Mombasa. The workshop was held Coast Girls High School between June 13 and 29, 2009.

After the training, an audit was conducted and it emerged that 30 officials had not properly accounted for the money spent. Some of the principals testified that they were paid Sh1,000 for lunch and transport while others received Sh1,600.

The court found her guilty of false accounting and said she tried to pass the blame to her junior - Ms Chacha - but her attempts flopped because the signatures on the documents did not match.

"This shows desperation that had engulfed the 1st accused who was hell-bent on covering her crime even if it meant fixing her junior with the entire burden," the magistrate ruled.

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