Clarify running of public varsities and role of several state agencies

When University students staged protests outside the National Treasury over delays to release HELB funds. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

State corporations, especially public universities are governed by the Constitution and several legislations. They require accreditation and licences, and follow guidelines from statutory bodies and constitutional commissions.

Navigating through the labyrinth of legal provisions and the various guidelines, advisories and circulars has been walking a tightrope in a minefield. On one hand, statutory bodies have insisted on their powers and oversight roles over universities while various directives/guidelines/advisories from the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), and the State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) have been contradictory and confusing resulting in various court cases.

The advisory received from the Attorney-General on their mandates is subject to a court case so it cannot be discussed but it does not shed much light.

The PSC is a constitutional commission whose mandate is provided for in Articles 234, 155(3)(a), 158(2)(3) and (4), 171(2), 230(2)(b), and 236 of the Constitution, the Public Service Commission Act and the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act.

Its functions are spelled out in Article 234 of the Constitution and the enabling legislation as to establish and abolish offices in the public service; Appoint persons to hold/act in those offices, and to confirm appointments, disciple or remove those persons; promote the values and principles in Articles 10 and 232 throughout the public service; investigate, monitor and evaluate the organisation, administration, and personnel practices of the public service; ensure the public service is efficient and effective; develop human resources in the public service; review and make recommendations to the national government in respect of conditions of service, code of conduct, and qualifications of officers in     the public service; evaluate and report to the President and Parliament on the extent to which the values and principles referred to in Articles 10 and 232 are complied with in the public service; hear and determine appeals in respect of county governments’ public service; nominate persons to the Judicial Service Commission and Salaries Remuneration Commission; recommend persons to be appointed as Principal Secretaries; receive and process petitions for the removal of the Director of Public Prosecutions and recommend the appointment of a tribunal to investigate the complaints; receive petitions for the removal of the Registrar and Assistant Registrars of political parties;
protect public officers against victimization and discrimination while discharging their duties; recruit and select Vice Chancellors, Deputy Vice Chancellors of Public Universities, and Principals and Deputy Principals of Constituent Colleges.

The SRC is established by Article 230(1) and its mandate and functions set out in Article 230(4) to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all state officers, and advise the national and county governments on remuneration and benefits of all other public officers and shall ensure the total public compensation bill is fiscally sustainable;  that the public services are able to attract and retain the skills required to execute their functions; recognise productivity and performance; and transparency and fairness and under Section 12 of SRC Act, the equal remuneration to persons for work of equal value.

SCAC is a committee established as a Presidential Task Force that derives its mandate from Section 27 of the State Corporations Act as follows. The committee shall advise on the matters and perform any functions required by this Act and “shall- (a) with the assistance of experts where necessary, review and investigate the affairs of state corporations and make such recommendations to the President as it may deem necessary; (b) in consultation with the Attorney-General and the Treasury, advise the President on the establishment, reorganisation, or dissolution of state corporations;

(c) Where necessary, advise on the appointment, removal, or transfer of officers and staff of state corporations, the secondment of public officers to state corporations, and the terms and conditions of any appointment.

Therefore, the committee’s mandate is purely advisory and, in many cases, in consultation with or with assistance from others. We hope we can get more clarity soon either from the government or the courts.