University of Nairobi vice-chancellor Peter Mbithi is railing under a storm that is likely to adulterate the quality of education in the highly regarded institute as he tries to steer the ship amidst claims of subversion from within.
Only last week, the management crisis at the institution found its way to parliament when Navokholo MP Emanuel Wangwe sought a statement from the parliamentary education committee on the state of affairs at the university.
Investigations now reveal that the university has been operating on a Sh2.5 billion budget deficit and sadly, it also operates on between Sh500-Sh600 million a month bank overdraft for payment of salaries. The university has 80,000 students in-house each paying over Sh80,000 per semester. There are three semesters in a year. The university collects nearly Sh2 billion per month inclusive of the parallel degree programme students. The big question is: where does this money go?
The university has also allegedly not been remitting both National Social Security Fund and National Housing Insurance Fund deductions from staff which is now in arrears to the tune of tens of millions of shillings. The problem is said to be within the university council where all is not well.
Already, there is a case pending in court challenging the legality of the university council. It is said the treasury has advised Education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and other stakeholders that the council be dissolved but Kaimenyi is still buying time and being seen in other quarters as cantankerous.
Sources say Kaimenyi has been protecting the university hence his reluctance to dissolve the council. Recently, the VC’s preferred candidate lost in the university’s Pension Scheme elections.
During the hotly contested elections, there were two camps, one allied to Mbithi and the other one allied to the immediate former VC George Magoha. The VC’s man John Muthee was beaten hands down by the Magoha man. The VC as if to remind everyone who the boss now is, removed two members from the Pension Scheme board ostensibly to preempt any sabotage that he fears factotums are bent on orchestrating.
He sacked from the board the deputy VC Administration and Finance Bernard Njoroge and Prof Irungu. He also fired a number of senior managers at the university and sent one on compulsory leave in what many saw as a bid to cast off the last vestiges of Magoha who nonetheless is determined to make his presence felt from his low rung.
Other DVS are deputy vice chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs HW Mutoro, deputy vice-chancellor, Research, Production and Extension Lucy Irungu and deputy vice-chancellor, Student Affairs Isaac Mbeche.
The managers sacked were Michael Karue who was the finance officer, Rebecca Gonda who was the chief legal officer and Peter Kiria who was a senior staff at the legal office while a Kiboi was sent on compulsory leave.
The firing of top officers at the legal department has grounded operations in the section. But what is worrying is the manner in which the university’s security hounded them out of office.
Already, locks to their offices have been changed and security guards have been advised to ensure the lot does not set foot or be seen anywhere near the university.
Fear now is the inability of the Education ministry and the council to address the ongoings at the university which is likely to bring the prestigious institution to its knees. Mbithi has installed new officers to be reporting to him directly overjumping their seniors. A junior officer at the finance department was recently directed through a memo to report directly to the VC and not to the DVC Finance as is the norm and chain of command elsewhere. The officer is a Mr Busenei. The same is happening to the man in charge of maintenance.
As all these dirty games play out, the VC is said to have been spending most of his time in foreign trips accompanied by members of his kitchen cabinet. Last week, he was said to be in the US and weeks ago, he was in Israel.
The university’s council is headed hy Idle Farah, Betty Gikonyo, Manu Chandaria, Joseph Hamisi, Lucy Kiyiapi, Sanjay Advani, Pascalia Koskey, Salome Gichura who is representative of cabinet secretary ministry of Education and Samuel Kiiru from ministry of Finance.
All eyes are now on the education committee in Parliament which is expected to table a comprehensive report in a three weeks on the state of affairs at the country’s topmost institute of learning.