Thursday, July 31, 2008



July 31, 2008
By Samuel Otieno
Kenya Times

Fourteen Kenyans are among 10,000 people being investigated by security agencies in the US for buying fake degree certificates with which they have acquired key jobs, including in the military.

The Kenyans under investigation, alongside other foreigners, are now staring at long jail terms if found guilty, deportation or humiliation among peers and family when they return home. In total, the suspects being investigated spent a staggering Sh500 million ($7.3m) to acquire the fake documents.

The Kenyans under investigations are Amunga Justus Mully, who bought an MBA, Aseno George Onyango (BA), Gitau Patrick W (BA), Kirusara Mwandi Patrick (BA), a Mohammed (BA) and Muriithi Andrew Njeru (BA).

Others are Oluchiri George (DBA), Omollo Joseph Odindo (BBA), Omukaba Martin (BS), Omukuenyi Hassan Nathan (BS), Omuluba Martin (BS), Ongunya Vitalis Omanyo (BBA), Oyer Omoro William (BBA) and Wachira Jenard Leo (MBA).

The revelations put the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) on high alert and it told employers to be on the lookout over the influx of foreign degree certificates.

Thousands of other Kenyans holding fake degrees have since joined plum jobs back home where they are unfairly edging out competent, locally trained employees.

The certificates, acquired from what are popularly referred to as ‘diploma mills’ in the US, have since landed the fake degree holders on lucrative jobs in America and other postings abroad.

Others have been propelled to promotions in their respective places of work.

Senior Kenyans involved

When The Standard contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC, the deputy Head of Mission, Mr Galma Boru, could not comment on the saga, saying the ambassador, Mr Oginga Ogego, who was the only one who could speak on the matter, was in a meeting.

The most shocking revelation of the scandalous intellectual fraud is that some senior Kenyans, including politicians, have been decorated with fake papers where some are being referred as ‘doctors’ and ‘professors’.

The 14 Kenyans under investigation, some holding what are supposed to be respected Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree certificates, are among hundreds of people working in the US military, government and education sector.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said the Government was not aware of the matter, but had launched investigation to establish the details of the scandal.

At the same time, Education ministry’s Director of Quality Assurance and Standards Enos Oyaya declined to comment over the matter.

"I do not comment on issues over the telephone because I must refer to the policies and I am outside the office now," Oyaya said when reached on the telephone.

However, the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) said it only equates diploma and certificates offered by other examination boards outside the country.

"The certificates and diplomas must be from an accredited examination body authorised by the law," said Knec Chief Executive Officer Paul Wasanga.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the suspects are being investigated for buying counterfeit degrees from colleges and universities or bogus degrees from non-existent online high schools, colleges and universities.

Normally, the US Homeland Security does not release information on cases it is investigating. It is now considering pursuing charges against about 300 US federal employees who bought bogus or counterfeit degrees.

Investigators are considering using a federal law that allows them to charge individuals who fraudulently obtain credentials giving them access to jobs in US government facilities.

An official at the US Embassy in Nairobi said they had not been notified over the investigation and referred The Standard to the Kenyan embassy in Washington and the Department of Homeland Security in the US.

"Anything like that is usually handled by the Homeland Security and we would have no idea if it is not released to us," said Mr T J Dowling, counsellor for public affairs at the embassy.

But reached in Seattle on Monday by a US Internet newspaper, Spokseman Review, Homeland Security Spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said: "We are aware of this issue, and we will take the appropriate action. But because it’s an ongoing investigation, I cannot discuss the specifics with you at this time."

The revelations raise concern over the number of people who process such certificates and use them to acquire jobs in Kenya and abroad.

Ms Eliza Chege, an assistant secretary with the Commission for Higher Education, said: "Employers have become cautious of the new trend of seeking higher education in foreign institutions. That is why they must come and verify with us."

Chege said the Teachers Service Commission was their regular customer since many teachers had resorted to further studies to earn promotions and higher perks.

She said the commission examines the content of training programmes Kenyans obtain abroad.

This, she said, was to equate the content and achievement levels with those in the local university system.

"To this effect, the commission has guidelines for standardisation, equation and recognition of degrees and diplomas," said Chege.

The complete list of buyers, which the US Department of Justice has refused to release to the public, was obtained and published by The Spokesman-Review.

"There are people in high places with these degrees, and only one of them has been charged with a crime," a source familiar with the list told the Spokesman-Review, an online paper celebrating its 12 anniversary this year.

A preliminary analysis of the list by the paper shows 135 individuals with ties to the military, 39 to educational institutions and 17 employed by government agencies.

The numbers were derived from e-mail addresses that are part of the list obtained by the newspaper.

However, the exact number of people with ties to the military, government and education is believed to be far greater because many buyers used personal e-mail accounts.

Eight people who set up and operated the Diploma Mill, including ringleader Dixie Ellen Randock, were indicted and convicted of federal crimes.

The conmen sold thousands of counterfeit degrees and transcripts from legitimate colleges, and phony degrees and transcripts from non-existent online universities and schools.