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Varsity placement board split over new servers deal

By Augustine Oduor | October 1st 2020 at 01:00:00 GMT +0300

Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service Chief Executive Officer John Muraguri. [File, Standard]

Universities and college students’ admission to their dream courses is now threatened as a major row builds at the students’ placement board over purchase of two new servers.

The Standard has established that the Sh13 million servers procured in 2018 are now subject of sharp division that has split the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) board down the middle.

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KUCCPS Chief Executive Officer John Muraguri and a dozen staff who participated in the procurement are now facing disciplinary process with hearings having started yesterday.

Muraguri, through his lawyer Mwaniki Gachuba, objected to the process and even obtained court orders challenging it.

Tender documents

At the centre of the row is whether the procured servers met the required speed specifications as indicated in the tender documents.

Troves of documents and letters seen by The Standard reveal sharp split between professional advice and what a section of the board members, led by chairman Joe Ager, are questioning.

According to the tender document requirements, the servers were to have processor speed of "3.2 gigahertz (GHz) or better".

The tender evaluation committee ranked Konvergenz Network Solutions top to supply and install servers with processors of base frequency of 2.4 GHz and a turbo frequency of 3.4 GHz, which according to the documents seen, is a better quality.

An undated report of the Internal Auditor-Systems Christine Mukhongo, however, disputed the quality.

“We noted that all specified features were availed except for the processors which was specified as 3.2GHz while the availed servers processors was 2.4 GHz,” reads the report.

Mukhongo, in her one-page report, says the processing power of the supplied server was lower than the one that was requested for and approved.

“Thus the desired speed will not be achieved,” said the report.

A printout of the servers report seen by The Standard, however, shows that for the time the machines have been in use, the processor speed has exceeded the 3.2 GHz that was prescribed in the tender documents.

The report reveals that speed of the servers have oscillated between 2.4 GHz and 4.0 GHz, demonstrating higher speed.

An independent report by the Information and Communication Technology Authority (ICTA) faulted findings of the internal systems auditor, giving the machines purchased a clean bill of health.

“The servers supplied conformed with the tendered specifications. The servers provided are fit for the intended purpose as they have been in production environment till to date and performing as expected,” said Katherine Gatao, ICTA chief executive officer.

The ICTA report dated July 14, 2020, says it reviewed the server specification documents against the supplied machines. They also held discussions with system administrators and technical support teams.

But as the rift between the board and secretariat staff widens, it is threatening the credibility of the placement process that has guaranteed equal chance for all students.

It's emerging that some board members are pushing for a weaker system that would be manipulated to alter students’ choices, with least qualified students placed in prime courses, thus denting the process that is fully automated.

“They (board members) have refused to accept that a server cannot have a static frequency. Speed oscillates based on amount of work and for this case the servers have outperformed requirement yet no one has gone to the servers to verify and we read malice,” said Gachuba, who is Muraguri’s lawyer.

This detail is the basis for a disciplinary process that the board kicked off yesterday targeting Muraguri.

The KUCCPS board chairperson Joe Ager did not respond to calls and messages sent to him as it is understood that he was chairing the disciplinary meeting.

Disciplinary process

Gachuba said his client did not attend the disciplinary committee as the process has been challenged in court and orders obtained.

“We have filed a case in court challenging the disciplinary process. We also want to quash the internal systems audits report and the board minutes of February,” said Gachuba.

The Standard, however, established that the rest of the staff faced the board yesterday to answer to the alleged procurement lapses.

Those targeted are the procurement officer, members of the tender evaluation committee, the inspection and acceptance committee members and the finance officer.

Higher Education Kenyan Universities KUCCPS John Muraguri
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