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TSC senior staff turned to beggars on official duty

By Peter Silsil
and John Machio.

The just ended promotion interviews for 20,348 teachers to Job Groups ‘K’, ‘M’ and ‘N’ is likely to be compromised due to the failure by Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to pay panelists their Daily Subsistence Allowance (Local travel) to execute their duties effectively, Education News has learnt.
This is despite these officers being deployed to conduct the exercise outside their official stations. According to County directors who talked to Education News in confidence, the Field Officers were deployed to far-away counties, miles away from their areas of jurisdiction in an effort to ensure that the interview process was credible and free from internal and external interference. Turn to page 6

As a result, frustrated senior officers who conducted the interviews from the County Directors’ offices could not even meet their basic needs like meals, accommodation, transport and related living expenses, thus exposing them to financial embarrassment before their juniors they were interviewing for promotion.
Nearly 480 Field Officers were appointed and dispatched to interview venues such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega, Machakos, Eldoret, Nakuru, Meru, Marsabit, Moyale, Kisii and Nyeri in a random sampling arrangement to ensure the exercise was free from interference.
Stories abound of TSC officers living in squalid and deplorable conditions with some sleeping in bedbug-infested lodgings while on official duty, while others sought accommodation in teachers’ quarters in some schools.
“We were forced to live in teachers’ quarters, and these are the very people we were to interview,” a disturbed Field Officer lamented, questioning how it would not be possible to make uncompromised reports in the interviews in such situations.
In the appointment letters issued to the senior officials seen by Education News, TSC surprisingly never bothered to make any commitments on re-imbursements to the panelists on the expected Daily Subsistence Allowance for the specified number of days as required by the law, a matter that fuelled further confusion regarding their fate.
“Majority of us left our duty stations to the interview venues before being paid allowances. We were required through the appointment letters to satisfactorily complete the exercise within set deadlines. Yet our employer, for some unknown reasons, chose not to facilitate us through per diems or imprest as is the norm. We have been working in hell,” confessed one TSC employee from Central Kenya who was sent to Mombasa County on this assignment.
Contacted, TSC Head of Corporate Communications, Kihumba Kamotho allayed fears over the non-payment of these allowances stating that the officers assigned to conduct interviews on teachers’ promotions will be paid once the County Directors confirm lists of those who participated in the exercise and the exact number of days worked.
“From a practical point of view, you cannot just send money to the officers before a list duly endorsed by the County Directors, who are their supervisors, confirming their participation in the interviews and the days worked is availed. The claims will be processed after we receive those records,” said Kamotho.
He said funds could not be released to the officers before the interviews in the spirit of safeguarding public funds as the Commission has to ascertain records of those to be paid through returns filed by the County Directors.
Kamotho did, however, admit that the letters offered to the officers assigning them the duties to conduct interviews were not clear on the expected Daily Subsistence Allowances.
“There are those who were assigned to conduct promotion interviews but were unable to travel due to sickness or other commitments. In such circumstances, if we were to release the per diems, then the public would lose funds” said Kamotho.
Njeru Kanyamba, CEO of Trade Union Congress-Kenya (TUC-K), dismissed the TSC position arguing that the Commission cannot purport to send the Field Officers to far-flung assignments without facilitating them terming such a move illegal.
Kanyamba said the officers should have been provided with imprest or per diem before proceeding for the work assigned and wondered how they were expected to deliver without facilitation.
“This decision to dispatch Government officers to the field without facilitation is unethical, immoral and barbaric. These were‘beggars’ on official duty. The interview process is now compromised because the officers were demoralized and could not offer the best of services. If the Commission did not have funds, why did it not postpone the interviews or cancel the exercise?” quipped Kanyamba.
Each interview panel had four officers who interviewed about 30 teachers per day with the panels headed by either the TSC Directors or their Deputies.
Administrative Assistants were deployed to record the proceedings of the interviews while Sub-County Directors represented the Commission Secretary in the sessions.
The interviews were conducted in two sections, with the first running between March 27 to April 1, 2017 which drew interviewees (teachers) from Secondary schools, Curriculum Support Officers and Education Assessment Resource Centre Officers; with the second batch of interviewees attracting teachers from Primary schools, Teacher Training Colleges and Technical Vocational Education Training institutions who were scheduled to appear for interviews between April 3 to 8.
According to the new rates of allowances payable to Public Servants released late last year by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), officers are entitled to Daily Subsistence Allowance to facilitate them to attend to official assignments away from their duty stations within the country. The rates differ from one Job Group to the other and the town the officer is assigned for duty. (See conversion table below).
Impeccable sources told Education News, that this was not the first time they were being subjected to such treatment.
A case in a point is the PRIEDE Project implemented jointly between TSC and the Ministry of Education, where Sub-county Directors (SCDs) and Curriculum Support Officers (CSOs) were assigned to conduct a survey on the implementation of the project within their jurisdictions without per diem or imprest.
The PRIEDE Project is designed to improve teaching and learning standards involving five primary schools in every Sub-county which scored less than 200 marks in the 2016 KCPE.
“We were advised to facilitate ourselves with the promise that we would be reimbursed. But at the end of the exercise in April 2016, no payment has been made to date” claimed one of the officers, who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Officers at TSC also complained that they were not being given airtime and data bundles as from October 2016, a move that has affected their field work. Officers in Job Groups ‘M’ and ‘N’ are entitled to airtime worth Sh 3,000 per month while those in Job Group ‘P’ and above are provided with Sh4,000 worth of airtime.
Those who spoke to Education News anonymously cited intimidation as the reason they were suffering in silence. Those who dare to express discomfort; it is said, are threatened with punitive action including transfers to Arid or Semi-Arid (ASAL) areas or demoted and redeployed to the classroom. Others are denied promotions.
According to the Budgetary Policy Statement for 2017/2018 released in November 2016; TSC was allocated Sh187,874 billion for Teacher Resource Management for the 2016/2017 Financial Year, with Sh62.2 billion meant for Governance and Standards. General Administration, Planning and Support Services was allocated Sh 6,056.2 billion.

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