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Council Denies Graft Claims in University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Appointment

GBR Team 15/01/2020

The governing body of the University of Nairobi has denied claims it switched the name of the top-scoring Vice-Chancellor candidate in favour of another, contrary to the law.

Professor Stephen Kiama was last week named the new VC and chief executive officer of Kenya’s biggest university after an interview process conducted by Public Service Commission, the staffing body of the civil service.

But soon after, claims emerged that in fact, Professor Kiama’s name was not on the shortlist of three candidates received from the PSC and that Professor Bernard Njoroge, a former deputy VC Finance had scored the highest amongst three candidates shortlisted by the Public Service Commission, with 96 points.

Sources within the university further alleged that Professor Madara Ogot came second, with Professor Kameri Mbote ranking third.

Contacted by GBR, Dr. Julia Ojiambo, the chairperson of the university council categorically denied the claims:

“It (Professor Njoroge’s name) was not on the list,” Dr. Ojiambo said in a text message. “You can confirm with the PSC.”

But the university sources were adamant that the list had been tampered with to drop Professor Njoroge’s name.

“Of course they (Council) are lying, they know the PSC cannot divulge confidential information.”

GBR reached out to the PS Education, Dr. Kevit Desai who is listed as the Ministry’s representative on the University Council but he said he no longer sits in it.

“When the CS came in, it was decided we were no longer needed on the council,” Dr. Desai said on phone. Consequently, he said, he did not have information on the said list.

The PSC reached through its spokesperson, Browne Kutswa, did not respond to a request to confirm the list of three candidates that was forwarded to the Council.

According to the university sources who cannot be named for confidentiality reasons, Professor Njoroge’s name was dropped because he insisted that the Council should concentrate on its mandate and let the University management run the institution.

Further, the sources allege that business ties could exist between some members of the Council and the university, something Professor Njoroge was said to be keen to terminate.

Analysis

Professor Njoroge, formerly the Principal of the College of Architecture and Engineering Sciences, had been appointed the deputy VC-Finance to deputize Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mbithi, before the two fell out.

The fallout was reportedly over finances with the DVC Finance accusing the VC of meddling in the Finance docket. VC Mbithi had previously served as the DVC Finance himself.

The latest available Financial Reports of the university available at on the website of the Office of the Auditor-General are for the 2016/17 financial year and they are negative.

Crucial filings were not done and various figures could not be verified by the auditor-general.

Nonetheless, the figures show that the University brought in about Sh20billion in revenues with expenses almost matching that. This compares to Sh10bn for Kenyatta University, and Sh6.2bn for Moi University over that same period.

Assets stood at Sh32bn but this is excluding its numerous real estate properties. With the properties included, the value of the assets easily surpasses Sh100bn. Kenyatta University’s total assets for the period were reported at Sh20.2bn with Moi University at Sh8.8bn.

GBR asked Dr. Ojiambo why the VC appointment was made without passing on the list of three candidates to the Cabinet Secretary of Education for transmission to the President to do the appointment. Instead the council itself made the announcement in a press briefing.

Dr. Ojiambo said that was not the legal position.

The Law

According to the Statute Laws (Amendment Act) 2018, in amending Section 35 of the Universities Act 2012 the University Council would, “(v) in the case of public universities, appoint Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors and Principals and Deputy Principals of Constituent Colleges, in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary, after a competitive process conducted by the Public Service Commission.”

The change in law was meant to prevent what were seen as partisan appointments by public universities’ councils of top management personnel at institutions of higher learning.