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Uneb minting millions from exam results

Uganda national examination board (Uneb) generates unspecified amount of money through the sale of national examination results to parents and media houses.

The quickest way to access the examination results is by use of Short Message Service (SMS), a paid for service across different mobile telecom platforms.

Members of the public not interested in using the SMS or paying for the results have the option of using the body's online portal to access the results. However, this requires data bundles.

Uneb executive secretary, Dan N Odongo

Katherine Kawala's 16-year- old niece sat the Uganda Certificate of Education examinations in 2017.  When the news of the results broke, Kawala loaded airtime on her mobile to get the results. She however, says the experience wasn't the best.

"I had to send a message three times before I could get any results. I ended up spending Shs 1500 instead of Shs 500 to get her results. That was very expensive," she said.

According to Uneb, the results are not public information and as such cannot be free of charge. Previously, Uneb would provide the examination results to media houses free of charge. But since 2013, media houses interested in the results also have to fork out money to get both the soft and hard copies. 

According to Uneb some media houses pay for the results even before they are released. Uneb executive secretary, Dan N Odongo, says whoever wants to access the results has to pay a fee at some point.

"If parents want quick results, they pay Shs 500 for an SMS, which is quicker than going to the school. If media houses too want a copy they need to pay for it," he told URN.
Media houses interested in the results are expected to write an official letter to the Uneb executive secretary stating their interest for approval. The examination body then determines how much to charge the media house.

The media house then pays the money to the finance department at of the examination body, which issues a receipt that is presented to the ICT department to issue a soft copy of the results.

Peter Wakabi, head ICT at Uneb says that the examination body has since time memorial sold the examination results to media houses.

"It is not public information, it is not free of charge. It is not, it has never been free of charge," he said. 

According to Wakabi, those interested in the results pay between Shs 1 million and Shs 7 million. For the full results, one would pay up to Shs 7 million and Shs 1 million for a summary of the results.

The money generated from the media houses and SMS is categorized as non-taxable income, which is used to finance operations of the examination body. The money generated from the SMS service is shared between Uneb, the telecoms and Uganda Revenue Authority in the form of Value Added Tax.

The examination body takes Shs 200 per SMS. However, Uneb declined to reveal the exact amount of money generated from this transaction. More than one million candidates are estimated to have sat last year's national examinations including 628,606 at primary level, 320,119 at O'level-and 101,269 at A'level.

Uneb would make Shs 206,945,00 if each candidate or their parents used the SMS platform to access the results. The examination body would end up with Shs 220 million if money from the media houses is also added. 
The Uneb Act specifies the source of funds for the board including grants or capital from government, loans or grants from other bodies or persons and any monies that may have been paid to the body in the discharge of its functions.
The Act states the functions of the examination as conducting primary, secondary, technical and such other examinations within the country. This includes registering candidates, setting examinations, marking examinations, releasing results and preparing certificates and pass slips for sat examination.

How the SMS service works

The results for each candidate in the country in a given year are stored on the Uneb data base. When a parent or candidate sends a message through a telecom company, the SMS is sent by the telecom company to Uneb as an inquiry. 

Uneb then sends the results of a candidate through the telecom company via an SMS gateway service.

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