Varsities receive Sh10 billion as Union opposes mergers, asks MPs to intervene

Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUC-Ke) acting secretary general Charles Mukhwaya (right), Tom Odege, Secretary General of Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) and Muga K'Olale, Uasu national chairman during a press conference in Nairobi on July 18, 2019 where they rejected the planned mergers of public universities. [File, Standard]

The Government has released Sh10 billion to universities for workers' salary increment and to settle pension arrears.

Of this amount, at least Sh5.2 billion will go to increasing the workers' pay. The pay raise is a product of negotiations under the 2013-2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Another Sh4.6 billion will go towards pension arrears that have accrued since the signing of the 2010-2013 CBA.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday said statutory deductions are a mandatory requirement by the law and asked universities to pay up.

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Prof Magoha revealed that public universities have not paid taxes amounting to Sh8.1 billion. The institutions have also not remitted pension deductions amounting to Sh8.4 billion.

“The affected public universities are required to engage the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) to waive interest on accrued taxes and pension," said Magoha.

The pay issue is being honoured even as details emerge that lecturers have opposed the Government's plan to merge some colleges.

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The lecturers are demanding that a task force be formed to collect views from Kenyans on the merger proposal.

The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has petitioned Parliament to intervene in the matter, which it fears could lead to job losses.

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Uasu officials also said the move would go against the national education policy, citizens' constitutional right to education, and the requirement to have at least one university in each county.

Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga asked Magoha to urgently convene a consultative meeting to discuss the impending reforms.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, while reading the Budget Statement for the 2019/2020 financial year, had said the higher education reforms are inevitable.

Mr Rotich said the Government would review all the universities' financial and management systems, and appraise ongoing projects with a view of restructuring them.

“We shall implement radical measures that will include mergers or closures of some universities that are not able to sustain their operations,” the CS said.

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Magoha has already instructed vice-chancellors to recommend which of their universities and constituent colleges will be merged or shut.

“The tough decisions will come and some of you will lose jobs,” Magoha said of the impending reforms.

In Uasu's petition to the National Assembly, the lecturers are seeking support from MPs.

“Urgently intervene and recommend the establishment of an educational commission or task force on university education whose recommendations should be debated by the public before implementation of any university merger policy,” reads the petition.

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