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Starehe Boys Centre recalls former director to clean up mess

Starehe Boys Centre has recalled its former administration director, Fredrick Okono, to head operations as part of ongoing efforts to clean up the institution and restore stakeholder confidence.

Mr Okono, who returned from Nigeria, was picked because of the close working relationship he had with Geoffrey Griffin, one of the three founders of the boys’ school, who served as its director for more than 30 years.

Mr Okono is part of the team that the institution’s management committee appointed to implement the transformation programme over a period of two years.

“Mr Okono spent a lot of time with Dr Griffin so if anybody understands the Starehe Way, then it’s him,” said Josphat Mwaura, the acting director of the centre.

GOVERNANCE CHALLENGES

Mr Mwaura took over a month ago after Charles Masheti left under a cloud of governance challenges.

Mr Masheti, the former director, was shown the door on April 25 after he was adversely mentioned in an audit report on the centre’s procurement and payments practices between January 2016 and February 2018.

The management committee had ordered the review to resolve integrity questions that had been raised about some of the centre’s employees, including the director. It is on the basis of this report that Mr Masheti was on April 9 issued a show cause letter and granted time off to enable him to respond by April 13.

“The director submitted his response dated April 12, 2018, but in his response, he did not address the specific issues raised in the letter to show cause, instead choosing to challenge the process, and offered to resign if paid for the remaining part of his contact – approximately Sh9 million,” said Raymond Rono, the chairman of Old Starehian Society (OSS) in a letter.

Mr Masheti was, among other things, accused of processing irregular payments to suppliers, single sourcing items at inflated prices as well as claiming and approving unauthorised allowances.

DWINDLING FINANCES

Mr Mwaura, who is also KPMG East Africa chief executive, takes the reins at Starehe at a time academic performance has been on a steady decline and financial support dwindling.

“Reversing this and putting Starehe back up there where it belongs is the task before us,” Mr Mwaura said. “My primary role is to engage with external stakeholders, including donors and the [Education] ministry.”

The KPMG managing partner spends half his working day (from 2.30 p.m to 9 p.m.) at Starehe pending the recruitment of a substantive director.

The transformation team has said the clean-up job at Starehe is mainly targeting improving academic performance, mobilisation of resources, prudent financial management and control, promoting the Starehe Way culture and strengthening the human resource.

Starehe, once the country’s premier high school, has been facing multiple challenges since the death of its founder and philanthropist, Dr Griffin, in 2005.

Since Dr Griffin’s death, the institution has had three directors –Jesse Mugambi, who left barely after two years, Matthew Kithyaka (2008 to 2016) and Mr Masheti, who took over in an acting capacity two years ago and was confirmed as substantive director in January.