How bursary cheques 'bounced' to punish noisy Machakos MCA

Thomas Mbithi, a student at Pwani University, had come home for long vacation in 2015 when his mother brought him a cheque from the Machakos County ward bursary committee for part of his fee.

Knowing a cheque has a ‘lifespan’ of six months, he was in no hurry and only took it to the University accounts department after three weeks.

"I then came back home. But about a month later, the accounts clerk called to say the cheque had bounced," Mbithi told us at Kambi ya Mawe shopping center in Ndalani-Yatta.

Mbithi’s family contacted the bursary committee chairman Stephen Muthuka who is also the Member of County Assembly for Ndalani in Yatta Constituency. Mbithi was in April last year forced to defer his studies because of financial constraints.

In 2016 eleven cheques send to Ndalani ward by The Machakos Bursary Fund fared a similar fate. Ndalani Member of County Assembly Stephen Muthuka claims it was a scheme to tame his firebrand politics, which has seen him cross swords with Machakos Governor Dr Alfred Mutua on several occasions.

Muthuka is the MCA behind the impeachment motion against the Governor in November last year.

"The problem has happened in 16 wards that were believed to strongly be opposed to Governor Mutua's style of leadership and how he seems to love the public limelight."

Muthuka says the Cheques did not bounce, but they couldn't draw funds because they were issued late. They had been signed in June, but according to Muthuka, they them in December, just a few days before their expiry.

He believes that it was a deliberate move and a conspiracy to make him and other MCAs critical of the Governor to look bad in the eyes of their constituents.

"It was a deliberate move to make our people believe that we were not serving them as expected. You know an MCA is the face of the Bursary Funds at the Ward and when there is a problem, the people blame us, not the Governor," he says.

At the ward office in Kisiiki, we were shown eleven cheques that had suffered a similar fate thus disrupting the education of 11 more young men and women who are in tertiary institutions and high schools.

One of the bounced cheques was for Presbyterian Teachers Training College to pay fees for a student called Bernard Mutinda. The drawer is listed as Machakos County Bursary Fund and it bears a letter signed by a Chief Officer at the Department of Education, David Musembi Mutia.

Another is drawn in favour of Nairobi Technical Training Institute to pay fees for Victoria Munywoki and another to Kiambu Institute of Science for payment of Thomas Kituu Munywoki’s fee.The four are among the 11 that have expired and are of zero value. Each Cheque was to draw Sh4,000.

We leave Yatta seeking some answers from the Machakos Bursary Fund that is managed by the County Department of Education Youth and Social Welfare. At the Education office we are informed that David Musembi Mutia who released the bounced Cheques was transferred to another department and in his stead we find John Kilonzo Muthama, who assumed office in February.

But Kilonzo says he does not understand the matter of bouncing cheques.

"Since I came here, the issue has been that of signatures and it is because signatories were changed. I am the new signatory," he says. "So what we do is we cancel that cheque and re-issue another one," he explained.