Fresh controversy is looming at the University of Nairobi amid questions whether Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has powers to cancel the appointment of a vice chancellor.
Sources close to Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama, the new vice chancellor hinted that his legal team is working to move to court tomorrow to challenge the legality of Prof Magoha directive to nullify his appointment and dissolve the entire council.
Prof Magoha revoked the appointment through a gazzette notice and appointed Prof Isaac Mbeche as the acting VC following claims of abuse of the recruitment process by the university’s council.
He also cancelled the appointment of council members Flora Mtuweta, Jocelyne Rarieya, Hassan Mohamud, Isaac Kiprop and Kariuki Muchemi.
In a memo to staff yesterday, Prof Kiama said he is still in charge having been ‘lawfully and validly appointed.’
“As such I continue in diligent service as your vice chancellor and remain available to you all for guidance and direction,” said Prof Kiama.
However, Prof Mbeche issued a memo to the director of ICT saying all official communication must come from the office of the acting VC and not from Prof Kiama.
Under the amended Universities Act, the recruitment of VCs in public universities is conducted by the Public Service Commission (PSC), which forwards the names of successful candidates to the council.
The amended law - Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2018 - moved the critical function of recruiting vice chancellors and deputy vice chancellors (DVSs) to the PSC.
It also requires chancellors of all public universities to be vetted by PSC, which will then recommend them to the Head of State for appointment.
Under the new order, PSC listed a set of requirements that universities must observe to facilitate the recruitment process for the senior staff.
Among them is the requirement that universities make a formal declaration of any vacancies where a vacancy arises.
In declaring a position vacant, PSC wants universities to state the vacant title and prescribe the qualifications for appointment.
This must include academic and professional requirements, desired previous experience and achievements.
Universities must also list the core competencies required for persons filling the vacant position complete with the remuneration befitting the position, including salaries, applicable allowances and other benefits.
However, after interviews are conducted by PSC, the proposed names are sent to the university councils, which are expected to make the necessary appointment in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Education.
This means that the council ought to have consulted Prof Magoha before appointment letter is issued.
Sources at the Ministry of Education, however, hinted that the due process may have been bungled with some possible unethical practices.
It emerged that the list of successful candidates presented to the council by PSC may have been doctored to suit certain candidates.
Last week, two lists with interview scores emerged, putting to question which of the two was the true merit order of candidates.
In the council official merit list Prof Kiama topped with 82.4 per cent followed by Prof Madara Ogot at 81.2 per cent.
Prof Kameri Mbote was third with 80.2 per cent, Prof Isaac Mbeche scored 79.1 per cent, Prof Elijah Omwenga had 77.0 per cent, Prof Lucas Shebairo scored 75 per cent and Prof Benard Njoroge had 73 per cent.
The second list had a totally different merit list with Prof Njoroge listed as tops with 96 per cent followed by Prof Ogot with 87.4 per cent and Prof Mbote with 84 per cent. Sunday Standard saw another list from PSC where Prof Kiama had been rated 80. 4 per cent, Prof Ogot, 79.3, Prof Mbote 78.4 , Prof Mbeche 77.9, Prof Omwenga 76.1, Prof Shebairo 70.5 and Prof Njoroge 70.1.
The Sunday Standard yesterday established that recruitment intrigues infuriated President Uhuru Kenyatta who ordered the nullification of the entire process.
Yesterday, Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission was roped in the unraveling controversy at the University to investigate the process and some individuals for possible unethical breaches.
In a letter dated January 17 to EACC boss Twalib Mbarak, Prof Magoha said the ministry observed there could have been some ethical and integrity breaches that could bring to disrepute the process and discredit the good reputation of the institution. “By copy of this letter, I kindly invite you to audit and interrogate the process as to its integrity, transparency, merit and ethos thereof ,” said Prof Magoha.
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