The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) now says Education Cabinet Secretary’s remarks on loan defaulters were taken out of context.
On February 20, CS Mohamed launched HELB’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan at Nairobi’s Laico Regency, where – in her speech –, she said the loans board would seek services of police officers in tracking down debt-dodgers, who would thereafter be arraigned.
“We are also going to partner with our law enforcement agencies to track down those holding jobs and yet are reluctant to stand up to be counted as responsible and patriotic citizens who honor their debts. This will include tracking graduates working in enterprises such as Mobile Transfer services such as MPESA, Airtel Money and other emerging jobs,” said the CS.
The minister’s declaration attracted harsh criticism offline and online, with Kenyans interpreting her statement to mean that any graduate who benefited from HELB money; and is yet to pay – regardless of being in the job market or not – would be tracked down, arrested and prosecuted.
And now HELB – through its CEO Charles Ringera –, says those who will be chased down are the graduates employed in the formal, semi-formal and non-formal sectors.
“There was public uproar mainly as a result of the CS comment being taken out of context and misconstrued,” says HELB in a February 22 press statement whose undersigned is CEO Mr Ringera.
“The focus of [CS Amina Mohamed’s] statement however is to ensure access to funds for future loan applicants from needy backgrounds.
“HELB therefore wishes to draw the attention of the public to The Constitution of Kenya, The Higher Education Loans Board Act, Debt (Summary Recovery) Act, Law of Contract Act, National Police Service Act and the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions Act.
“Law Enforcement is defined as the action of compelling observance of or compliance with the law. Any individual, office, department, division etc. can be a law enforcer as authorised or designated by the respect law to carry out enforcement. The police force is just but one of such enforcement agencies,” says HELB.
“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions exercises state powers of prosecution of crimes either directly or through delegation of its authority to other state agencies. Several public institutions have such delegated authority to prosecute. They include NHIF, NSSF, KEBS and HELB to name but a few.
“The [DPP’s] office has delegated prosecution to HELB. ODPP remains the overall owner of the prosecutions. Default in Loan repayment according to the HELB Act is a criminal offence and therefore HELB can seek the intervention of the Officer of the Director of Public Prosecutions where loanees and employers are breach of Section 15 and 16 of the HELB Act. It is in this context that the CS’s speech must be viewed,” said HELB.
Section 15 stipulates that loanees, who default on loan repayment, including those who are employed, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of not less than five thousand shillings in respect of each loan deduction that remains unpaid.
Section 16 of the HELB Act provides that every employer shall be required upon the employment of any loanee to inform the Board in writing within a period of three months of such employment.
“Indeed, HELB will collaborate with ODPP and other relevant agencies to enforce loan repayment as provided for under the HELB Act,” said the loans board.