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Sonu in a spot over Sh40m kitty and rules on elections

By Lilian Aluanga-Delvaux | Nov 6th 2016 | 3 min read


The Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) wants an audit of the University of Nairobi students body amid revelations that the organisation is allocated more than Sh40 million every year.

Consequently, in its investigations into student elections and subsequent riots of April 2016, the commission has recommended far-reaching changes in the running of Students Organisation of Nairobi University (Sonu).

The commission noted that each year, the university collects more than Sh40 million for Sonu, out of which slightly over Sh10 million is spent on elections, while the rest is spent on allowances for officials and student activities.

Says the report: “A perusal of the audited accounts for the year 2014/15 indicated that the university collected Sh40,731,235 as Sonu subscription fee and spent Sh36,970,725 on Sonu activities. It is not clear what happened with the balance of Sh3,760,510.”

The commission further states: “CAJ established that Sonu collected Sh35,261,000 and spent Sh31,453,454. The balance is Sh3,807,546 in the 2015/16 financial year. The audited accounts for the financial year in question are not yet available”.

In total, about Sh7.5 million is not reflected as having been carried forward to the consequent Sonu financial accounts. Funds are usually banked at the university’s main account and managed under a different vote-head.

Each year, Sonu leadership draws up a budget of about Sh35 million to cater for the activities intended for that particular year. These include Sonu elections, bursaries, allowances and corporate responsibilities among others.

The Sonu constitution provides for collection of subscription from all students joining the university on regular and module II programmes, with the former paying Sh500 each and the latter parting with Sh1,000 annually.

Besides calling for amendments to the Sonu constitution to allow student leaders vie for only one term, the Ombudsman’s office is also proposing that management and accounting of the student body’s funds be independent and separate from the university’s main accounts.

Other recommendations in the report dated October 2016 include barring outgoing Sonu officials in the running of elections, harmonising the organisation’s membership fees for both regular and parallel students, as well as training student leaders on good governance, public finance and procurement.

Also coming in for mention by the commission is the police force which was found to have used excessive force in quelling the riots, with calls made to the Inspector General of Police to institute administrative action against officers involved.

The university was the scene of ugly confrontations between students and the police following the election of Paul Owino, popularly known as Babu Owino, as chair. The riots led to the burning down of a Sonu office and prefab hostel by a group of students led by Mike Odhiambo, Owino’s main rival  which disputed the results that handed Owino a fourth term as Sonu chair.

In its investigations, CAJ notes that with time, the focus of students aspiring for Sonu leadership has changed from nurturing leadership qualities and advocating for students welfare to control of the students body’s enormous funds.

Says the report: “This has led to Sonu being viewed as a cash cow for those able to organise themselves into groups that can win the elective posts.”

The commission, in its findings, alleges that there is a lack of transparency in the utilisation and account of Sonu funds and that some of the funded activities do not take place despite funds having been spent by officials who are also paid monthly allowances.

Unabated goonism

The student’s body, according to the commission, does not subscribe to the ideals of the students council as recommended in the University Act 2012.

“Students who rise to the Sonu leadership often see themselves as an institution. As such Sonu has since metamorphosed from mature leadership in relation to student welfare into a culture of unabated goonism where Sonu intimidates the university administration with threats of riots and lawlessness anytime the students don’t get their way.”

The commission also points to external influence in the students’ elections, and alleges that some student leaders solicit funds from politicians in the name of Sonu but put the monies into personal use.

The commission also noted that there were non-students residing in the students halls of residence, some of whom, are involved in illegal activities, thus giving rise to incidences of insecurity.

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