The looming controversy stoked by nullification of the appointment of the University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor is just a tip of the iceberg of challenges public universities face in the hiring process. Before the new law, the Education Cabinet Secretary called the shots in the hiring of top staff in universities.
Under the new law, recruitment of VCS and DVCs is carried out by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in line with the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2018 which took the critical function from the Cabinet Secretary. The new law also requires chancellors of all public universities to be vetted by PSC, which then recommends them to the President for appointment.
PSC had taken steps to ensure the process was professional by issuing a set of requirements that universities must observe to facilitate proper hiring process. Among these is that universities make a formal declaration where and whenever a vacancy arises. In declaring a position vacant, PSC demands that universities state the vacant title and prescribe the qualifications for appointment.
The declaration to be made directly to the commission must also include expected deliverables of the new office, duty station or location of the job and terms of employment. The process of recruitment under the new law requires that PSC advertises, shortlists and interviews candidates and forwards names of successful persons to the universities councils. The councils in consultation with the Ministry of Education ought to make appointments based on merit, among other considerations.
Reports that the due process in hiring the University of Nairobi VC may not have been followed or was abused is disheartening and goes against the spirit of the amendment. Investigations by EACC are laudable and must seek to audit and unearth the muck that may have tainted what ought to be a straightforward process. However, the new law may also need to be relooked if, in its current form, it is likely to stoke more controversy.