Standoff at UoN as Kiama reshuffles top leadership
Roselyne Obala and Augustine Oduor
| Jan 22nd 2020 | 4 min read
University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Stephen Kiama has sent Isaac Mbeche, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Finance, Planning and Development, on leave.
Prof Kiama said Prof Mbeche’s request to proceed on annual leave had been granted with immediate effect. But Mbeche told The Standard: “I was actually on leave when I was recalled by the CS to come act as VC. It was an order. When I was called my leave ended”.
Mbeche was appointed acting VC by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha after revoking the appointment of Kiama.
Kiama, however, obtained court orders reinstating him pending the hearing and determination of a case he has filed.
In an internal memo last evening, Kiama appointed Madara Ogot acting DVC, Finance, Planning and Development. Prof Ogot has been DVC, Research, Innovation and Enterprise.
In the changes, Kiama has also confirmed Julius Ogeng’o, who is presently in charge of academic affairs, to the position of DVC, Student Affairs. He said Ogot and Prof Ogeng’o were formally appointed.
The new details came as it emerged that the office of the VC remained locked yesterday, pushing Kiama to operate from his old office, even after a court reinstated his appointment.
A visit by The Standard to the University of Nairobi Towers that houses the VC’s office at 18th floor, established that the entire building was out of bounds, as lifts were not operational and power off.
Kiama has been the deputy vice chancellor (Human Resource and Administration), and his office was at the third floor of the old VC’s office building. “He came to the university and went to his old office because the VC’s office remained locked,” said a senior university official.
Kiama yesterday said he visited the university and monitored operations, including registration of new students. “Actually there is no crisis. Yes, there are some delays in some process and people do not know who is actually in charge, and that can cause confusion,” he said.
Kiama said he also met professors who were deliberating the solution moving forward.
He said he started service as VC on January 6, after his appointment, and noted that he had been working since then and that there had not been any issues until Friday last week when his appointment was revoked.
“I don’t read any malice in the revocation. It’s just a feeling from some quarters that perhaps they have certain authorities over certain things and it’s an issue that may require further interpretations,” said Kiama.
Kiama declined to comment on the matter substantively, saying it was active in court.
“I wish to say the university has a culture of excellence, with many trained here and wherever they go they are strong and offer leadership that is expected of them, because of the nurturing and training spirit at the University of Nairobi,” he said.
The development came as questions emerged over who was in charge of the university.
University Academic Staff Union officials, student unions, the senate and university Executive Management Board have thrown their weight behind Mbeche.
With First Year students already reporting, it is expected that they are welcomed and addressed by the VC as tradition dictates.
It was, however, not clear who would take over the role under the prevailing circumstances, as both sides quietly faced off.
Fresh details also emerged that a split has rocked the council with a section accusing the chairperson of making appointment without consulting all council members.
Public Service Commission chairman Stephen Kirogo has distanced the body from the controversy surrounding Kiama’s the appointment of Kiama.
Kirogo said that PSC had already done its work in a “professional and competent manner” and commenting further on the issue was above its scope.
“We grade the candidates and the issue of appointments falls within another domain … the law is very clear our role is to recruit. We advertise, shortlist, interview and prepare a merit based performance and forward that to the council,” he said.
“Anything beyond our role will be punching above our weight,” added Kirogo.
A report dated December 30, 2019, and presented to the university council by Kirogo, indicates that Kiama emerged top, scoring 80.44 marks, while Ogot came second with 79.31. Prof Patricia Mbote had 78.44 while Mbeche scored 77.94.
Prof Elijah Omwenga had 76.13, Prof Solomon Shibairo 70.56, while Prof Bernard Njoroge had 70.13.
Prof Kareithi Ruth Nduati was not interviewed, as she did not present clearance from EACC and KRA.
But even as the events unfolded, the plot seems to thicken at the multi-billion shilling institution after the anti-graft agency launched investigation into the controversial appointment of the vice chancellor.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) yesterday initiated its probe into the intrigues that led to the revocation of the appointment of Kiama by Prof Magoha last Friday, citing ethical and integrity issues.
This is after Magoha, in a letter to EACC boss Twalib Mbarak, called for investigations on the exercise that was conducted by the PSC on December 18 last year.
Magoha had observed that there could have been some ethical and integrity issues that could tarnish the process and ruin the reputation of the university.
Mr Mbarak has written to PSC, asking it to provide documents pertaining to the exercise, as stipulated in the University Act, 2019.
According to a letter addressed to the secretary and CEO Simon Rotich, Mbarak requested for six documents to facilitate investigations.
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