Sh234m students’ fine puts Egerton VC on the spot, again

Egerton University students are arrested during a protest at the institution’s main campus in Njoro, Nakuru County. (Kipsang Joseph, Standard)
Two burnt lawn-mowers, two stoned staff motor vehicles, broken window panes, vandalised electrical appliances and damaged asbestos roof at Egerton University are the reasons why more than 13,900 students were surcharged a fine of Sh16,862 each.

Although the university claims that the damages caused by students during a demonstration were massive to cost the 13,953 students an arm and a leg, the students have protested and want the institution to come clean on how they reached the figure.

Cumulatively, the university will raise Sh234,381,800 from the fines.

The damage occurred in December after students took to the street to demonstrate over zero fee balance policy before sitting examinations.

SEE ALSO :Parents want Egerton stopped from imposing fine on students

Egerton Vice-Chancellor Rose Mwonya has, however, maintained the fine stands and that if anything it should be increased. Mwonya says an internal audit quantified the damage at Sh235,268,018.20.

“Properties were burnt, accessories vandalised and asbestos roofing damaged, other iconic and invaluable building equipment and teaching resources, some which were of sentimental and treasured value to the university and alumni, were destroyed,” Prof Mwonya said.

Donor funded projects aligned to the Big 4 Agenda were also destroyed, she added.

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But students are questioning how the university calculated the fine imposed on them. Some have even vowed not to pay the fine.

They claim they should pay at most Sh2,000 each. Most students feel the institution is in the process of raising funds to clear its debts and is taking advantage of the strike.

SEE ALSO :Seven Egerton students face suspension over strike

Court battles

“The damage caused was too minimal, the university is in a mission to raise money to clear its Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) debts,” said a student who sought anonymity.

The university is also engaged in a court battle with its workers who sued it last year claiming Sh431 million. The workers allege that the university has defaulted on its statutory deductions to the Sacco since November 2017.

“There has been a continuous default by the university in paying deductions it has made from its employees who are members of the Egerton University Sacco Limited,” said a worker.

The university is also alleged to have not paid Sh3.6 billion in pensions, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and NHIF due to its staff.

SEE ALSO :Egerton University suspends seven student leaders

The students want action taken against the management and are demanding that the vice chancellor be fired four years after she took over from James Tuitoek.

Prof Mwonya made history to be the first woman to head the institution. She had earlier served at the university as the deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Her appointment was marred with controversy as her former colleague Njenga Munene, who was the DVC administration and finance, moved to court and obtained orders temporarily stopping the recruitment process.

Prof Munene cited bias and lack of transparency in the recruitment process. Mwonya however triumphed and took over the position.

In 2018, however, she hit the headlines after she was suspended pending investigations into procurement malpractices, a students’ scholarship scandal among other numerous allegations of mismanagement.

SEE ALSO :7 Egerton student leaders to miss tests

She was also accused of authorising construction of a Sh70 million gate at the Njoro campus, which was not a priority for an institution facing serious financial problems.

Under her watch, the university is also said to have authorised construction of an electric fence worth Sh44 million. Another allegation included pumping Sh180 million on the institution’s Ngongongeri farm in Njoro, with no returns.

Mwonya moved to court to challenge her suspension, saying the council did not follow due process in suspending her and that she was not accorded any hearing.

In May last year, the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nakuru revoked her suspension. But in October, the university accounts were frozen by KRA over a Sh856 million tax debt.

A debt repayment agreement was however executed where the university surrendered a title deed to a 642-hectare parcel of land in Baringo County.

Entire debt

On the land, is Egerton University’s Dryland Research Training and Ecotourism Centre, Chemeron (DRTEC).

For Egerton to get back the title deed, it was required to pay the taxman Sh40 million immediately the pact was signed, and settle the rest in equal 12 months installments.

It was agreed that should the university fail to remit any of the installments, KRA was at liberty to forcibly demand the entire debt amount which could mean putting the land up for auction.

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Egerton UniversityRose MwonyaBig 4 Agenda