Letter to Got Matar Supporters

Dear Friends,

On 20th February I was alerted by Grace Ochieng Andiki, the founder of the Got Matar Community Development Group and its volunteer programme coordinator, to her suspicions of fraud in the management of funds by the Institute of Technology (IoT) – the Community’s practical skills training centre.

I advised her not to rush into sudden action but to ensure that the matter would be thoroughly investigated with the full engagement of the IoT Board and Ace Africa (Kenya) staff. It was important to assemble reliable evidence on the causes and sources of the apparent leakage.

In order to protect funds given to Ace Africa in response to my end of year (2018) appeal, I immediately requested the UK office of Ace Africa not to transfer any donor funds to Kenya pending the completion of enquiries. The result is that these donations remain intact as is also the case for funds contributed during the same period to Associazione SONIA, our cooperating charity in Italy.

The investigations have been completed. The culprit was identified as the IoT manager. He had encouraged students to pay their tuition fees in cash which he pocketed, while providing them with ‘official’ receipts. The ultimate result of his nefarious actions was that there was no money left in the bank from which to pay staff salaries for April, May and June this year.

The IoT manager was widely respected and was considered to be doing an excellent job in building up the institution.  He succeeded in ‘duping’ experienced Ace Africa staff. I had never met the manager but have to admit that I, too, had been impressed by his apparent achievements.

The outcome is that the IoT Board has dismissed the offender and he has been placed in police custody. However, it is most unlikely that any of the stolen money can be recovered.

A search has been conducted for well qualified “God-fearing” candidates for the vacant post.  An Acting Manager has been appointed from amongst the existing staff and seems to be doing well.

New procedures have been put in place to ensure that all tuition fees are paid directly by students into the IoT bank account. Earnings from income-generating enterprises will also all be banked.

In order for the IoT programme to keep running without interruption, I have personally provided funds via Ace Africa (Kenya) to cover the IoT operating income deficit for April-June. This has made it possible to retain all teaching staff and to keep classes going for the 201 enrolled students, of whom 120 are girls.

The construction programme – the main call on donor funds – was put on hold pending the conclusion of the investigation. The funds collected by Associazione SONIA have now been transferred to the Community Development Group and will be used to complete the building of the Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing training workshop as well as to buy badly needed extra equipment for several courses.

Hopefully, it will be possible to complete the delayed Food and Beverage training centre before the end of this year.

This episode has been a great disappointment – a betrayal of trust. However, it is the first major setback faced by the Got Matar Community Development Group since it was formed in 2002. The damage was caused by a “bad egg” who was seemingly above suspicion.

I remain convinced that the IoT can make a really big difference to the livelihood prospects facing young people in Got Matar and surrounding communities. Not only will the pupils benefit in terms of getting better jobs but the growing number of people equipped with relevant skills is bound to boost the pace of development in the area. Oddly enough, the “scam” provided a strong incentive for the manager to build up student numbers! With over 200 students now  enrolled, it should soon be possible for the IoT to meet almost all its operating costs from its income.

Your help over the years has made it possible for the Community to create a thriving secondary school in which student numbers are now well above its intended capacity. It has also enabled the IoT to reach half of its target for building and equipping 10 training workshops and a management block. I intend to continue seeking your help until the full building programme has been completed and the IoT is able to stand on its own feet.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions to make, especially on how we can improve fund-raising. In the meantime. I very much hope that you will continue to support what is fundamentally a very successful project.
With best wishes,
Andrew MacMillan