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Power play rocks students’ placement body as Magoha tells off board over acting CEO

By Augustine Oduor | November 13th 2020
Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service CEO John Muraguri. [File, Standard]

The universities students’ placement board has sent Chief Executive John Muraguri on terminal leave and appointed an acting boss, sparking a controversy that has roped in Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) appointed Mercy Wahome, Research, Strategy and Knowledge manager acting Chief Executive Officer.

In a letter dated November 11, board chairman Joe Ager directed Muraguri to immediately proceed on leave and to hand over to acting CEO.

“The Human Resource Manager has confirmed to the board that you have 38 leave days… You are instructed therefore to proceed on your annual leave with immediate effect and report back on January 11, 2021,” reads the letter signed by Ager.

Muraguri’s contract with KUCCPS expires on March 9, 2021.

“Please handover by November 26 to Mercy Wahome, Research, Strategy and Knowledge manager who has been appointed to act as CEO of KUCCPS with immediate effect,” reads letter by Ager.

In the letter to the CEO, chairman Ager says that board will be prepared to consider paying Muraguri any outstanding leave days he will have worked in February 2021. 

The letter is copied to Prof Magoha, University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi and State Corporation Advisory Committee secretary Wanjiku Wahome.

The Standard yesterday established that Magoha, citing Section 58 and Section 9 of the Universities Act, advised that the appointment of the acting CEO does not fall within the boards mandate.

This may stock fresh power struggle between the Magoha and the board that has been conducting disciplinary hearings on a dozen KUCCPS staff who participated in the two servers procurement process.

Section 9 of the Universities Act reads: “There shall be a Secretary of the Commission who shall be appointed by the Cabinet Secretary on the recommendation of the Commission following a competitive recruitment process and who shall serve for a period of five years, which term may be renewable once.”

Section 58 of the Act says that the provisions relating to the appointment of the Secretary and staff members of the Commission as set out in sections 9 and 12 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to the appointment of the Director and staff members of the Placement Service.

It also emerged that Ms Wahome, who had resigned from KUCCPS in September this year, withdrew her resignation Wednesday, paving way for appointment as acting Chief Executive Officer.

“I have reflected on the persuasion by the CEO and the chair on behalf of the placement board to reconsider the notice of resignation and hereby write to cancel the notice and offer to continue with my employment with the placement service,” reads a letter Ms Wahome signed in November.

The board also sacked two senior officials after an elaborate disciplinary process over the procurement of Sh13.9 million servers.

Acting ICT manager Dennis Kinyanjui Rama and Michael Mungai Mahia, the placement and career coordination officer were sacked for participating in a flawed procurement process.

Mr Rama took over the ICT department in an acting capacity after his boss– Henry Kamau– was sacked in 2016 in another board row that also suspended Muraguri.

Former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi intervened in the 2016 board decision to suspend Muraguri. Prof David Ndetei was the chairman of the board that was later disbanded after the wrangles.

Rama and Mahia were members of technical tender evaluation committee and the inspection and acceptance committee in 2018 that cleared tender awarded to Konvergenz Solutions.

According to the tender document, the servers were to have processors speed of ‘3.2 gigahertz (GHz) or better’.

The tender evaluation committee ranked Konvergenz Network Solutions to supply and install server with processors of base frequency of 2.4 GHz and a turbo frequency of 3.4 GHz.

Board chairman Joe Ager, who signed the sacking letters, said the two officers violated several provisions of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act (2015) and Public Finance Management Act (2012).

“Your action of misrepresenting the said equipment in order to award the tender to a non complaint provider, and accepting the servers amounted to fraudulent practice,” said Ager in letters dated November 11.

This even as internal audit reveals that speed of the servers have oscillated between 2.4 GHz and 4.0 GHz, demonstrating higher speed.

The development now threatens to throw students’ placement to Universities and Colleges in jeopardy, as it also emerged that the board is split on the decisions made Wednesday.

Speaking to The Standard, Ager said the board made the decisions during a special meeting held at the agency Wednesday.

Muraguri had sought clarifications from Magoha whether the meeting should be convened, arguing that it was falling beyond the maximum limit as provided by almanac, an annual publication listing a set of board meetings and events forthcoming in the year.

“This is therefore to seek your approval for the same as guided by the circular from the Head of Public Service dated March 2020 on the management of State Corporations,” Muraguri wrote to Magoha.

Ager however said that the meeting was duly convened, saying that the court order barring the proceedings was lifted.

He also cited an advisory from the Attorney General’s office on parallel investigations between Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and KUCCPS board.

The procurement officer, all members of the tender evaluation Committee, the inspection and acceptance committee members and the finance officer appeared before the board.

“Muraguri did not appear before the board for hearings because he was said to have fallen ill. We asked him to take terminal leave and he shall be heard when he returns,” said Ager.

 Mwaniki Gachuba, the legal counsel of Muraguri accused the chairman and a section of the board of waging a personal vendetta by pushing the CEO out of the Service.

“All these started when the CEO asked form a second term and it is clear that the chairman has taken this personal to punish Muraguri over servers that were purchased in 2018 and have been working efficiently,” said Mwaniki.

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