Shocking: Prison warders live in squalor, report reveals

84 per cent of officers live in houses declared inhabitable

In Summary

• Kilifi and Kakamega counties have the highest lack of houses at 92 and 95 per cent respectively.

• In many places officers share houses, compromising their privacy and morale.

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a Kenya Prisons guard of honour.
President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a Kenya Prisons guard of honour.
Image: FILE

Prison officers are neglected, with 84 per cent of the staff living in filth and misery despite government pumping in Sh1.15 billion towards their housing.

In an explosive performance audit report on the provision of housing to a prison officer, Auditor General Edward Ouko brings to light the shocking revelations of how the government has contributed to discrimination of prison warders in housing over the years.

Ouko points out a worrying trend where the government prioritises police officers over prison staff in the allocation of houses.

“The prison staff housing has suffered a lack of prioritisation by the government over the years. It was only after the introduction of prison reforms in 2003 that staff housing received government attention,” Ouko said.

“Even so, the current PPHP appears to favour the Kenya Police Service over KPS in the allocation of housing units. For example, a project involving the construction of 1,850 housing units was underway as at the time of the audit. Out of the 1,850 units, KPS was only allocated 350.”

Ouko says the majority of prison staff live in squalid conditions characterised by mud houses to aged pre-independence structures and in some cases open halls, something that continues to dim prison staff performance.

To beat the deficit, a number of prisons have seen emergence of uncontrolled house extensions to accommodate officers who have no place to live.

This is despite the government’s Rapid Result Initiative through which the State pumped Sh1.15 billion to provide decent housing to the officers.

The RRI replaced the 2013 prisons reform – spearheaded by then Vice President Moody Awori- which allocated Sh500 million each year to construct staff houses across the country.

The report tabled on Thursday by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale paints a grim picture of dejected officers who are forced to share dilapidated houses not fit for human habitation.

From the findings, 84 per cent of the officers live in houses that have been declared inhabitable.

Ouko said the prison department currently has a paltry 3,894 permanent houses against a staff population of 23,831.

“Although staff numbers have increased over time, KPS has not constructed houses at the same pace. Interviews and review of documents revealed that KPS staff population increased by 34 per cent from 17,777 to 23,831 while housing units increased marginally by six per cent from 3,660 to 3,894 during the period 2008 to 2017,” Ouko reports.

This leaves the majority of the officers to squeeze themselves in a mud-walled, iron sheet and timber houses which lack basic amenities like water and toilets.

The audit was carried in Nairobi, Central, Rift Valley, Coast, Nyanza and Western regions.

Ouko says the condition has also compromised the privacy of the officers who are forced to share dingy rooms with their colleagues.

Even for the permanent houses, Ouko points out they are in poor conditions with broken windows and doors, damaged and faded walls, run down amenities and rusted roofs.

“The audit observed instances of officers accommodated in single rooms with their families while other officers shared rooms. This compromised their privacy. For example, there were instances where two bedroom houses were shared among four families.”

The pathetic condition, the report said, has not only affected the officers’ performance but also their social life.

Section 149 (1) of the Prisons Rules under section 74 of the Prisons Act compels the government to provide housing to all prison officers within their respective stations.

The report further reveals that all prison stations across the country have a housing deficit of more than 50 per cent.

Kilifi and Kakamega counties recorded the highest deficit at 92 and 95 per cent respectively.

Kakamega, Kaloleni, Kilifi, Murang’a, Ruiru and Shimo La Tewa stations were among the worst hit, with housing deficits of between 82 per cent and 95 per cent.