Irene Githinji @gitshee
“You can run, but you can’t hide”. That was Education Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed’s tacit message yesterday to an estimated 74,000 Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) loan defaulters. They reportedly owe the board a staggering Sh7.2 billion as at December 31, last year.
Amina said the board had enlisted the services of the police to track down the debtors to recover the billions to enable others benefit from the revolving student loans facility, serviced by the taxpayer.
“We are going to partner with our law enforcement agencies to track down those holding jobs and are reluctant to stand up to be counted as responsible and patriotic citizens who honour their debts. This will include tracking graduates working in enterprises such as mobile transfer services such as M-Pesa, AirtelMoney and other emerging jobs,” said Amina.
Helb chief executive officer Charles Ringera vowed to cast the net wider in a bid to nab those outside the country, adding that the Foreign Affairs ministry had been roped in to target the Diaspora.
“We are having a large number of graduates leaving the country to work abroad, majority of whom have defaulted. We shall not spare this group, ” he said.
Overall, the Helb annual student budget has grown from Sh4.6 billion financing 109,189 students in 2012 to Sh11.4 billion financing 248,050 students in 2017/18. The Exchequer funds 53 per cent of the total budget while 47 per cent is from loan recovery.
“In order to guarantee sustainability of Helb, I call upon employers to enhance loan recovery mechanisms to track over 74,000 defaulters holding more than Sh7.2 billion as at December 31, 2018. This intervention will improve Helb’s performing loan portfolio from the current 72 per cent to more than 80 per cent by 2023,” said Amina.
She made the remarks when launching the board’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan and the ISO 9001:2015 certification at a Nairobi hotel. The plan has a projected budget of Sh90 billion.
“I directed Helb to adopt artificial intelligence to serve customers better. The agency should equally use block chain technologies to aid in loan recovery and resource mobilisation to align the operations of Helb to those of leading financing institutions globally,” the CS added.
Helb is also currently funding 24,252 students in various Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Amina said her ministry was engaging Treasury to secure more resources to expand the reach.
It is estimated that this year, some 262,764 students will be placed in technical training institutes and another 90,688 in universities. In order to allow more candidates to access tertiary education, the placement process to TVET institutions will remain open at various intervals throughout the year.