VCs reject Public Service Commission role in hiring

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (left) chats with Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Mwonya, July 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

University vice-chancellors have rejected the role of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the recruitment of senior staff in public institutions of higher learning.

The VCs have also rejected a return to the old students’ elections process that provided for universal suffrage.

In their proposals to MPs on the Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, the VCs want the collegiate electoral system in university students’ council election maintained.

The managers are also opposed to PSC taking part in the recruitment process of VCs, their deputies, principals of constituent colleges or their deputies.

The VCs want the hiring process of the top management and senior university staff be done by persons who have an understanding of university staffing affairs.

They also want the selection panel to comprise the chairperson of the Council and two independent Council members.

According to their petition, they want the panel to have two PSs in charge of University Education and National Treasury and two representatives nominated by the Senate.

Vice-Chancellors Committee chairperson Geoffrey Muluvi, December 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

However, they want the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Education to have the final say in the appointment of VCs.

“The names of the top three candidates to be forwarded to Cabinet Secretary with full minutes for the appointment for the position of Vice-Chancellor or Principal,” the VCs proposed.

VCs stand reflects the position of the Cabinet that also eliminated PSC from the hiring process.

The Cabinet has approved changes to the law that gives back powers of appointment of VCs to the Education Cabinet Secretary.

If adopted, the changes will put to rest the chaos that mar the appointment of VCs and their deputies under the amended law that transferred the functions to the PSC.

The PSC role came into force through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2018, sparking a major row between the Public Service Commission and universities management.

Under the law, the PSC calls for applications, shortlists candidates and interviews them before forwarding names of successful candidates to university councils.

But the revised law will also bring to an end the conflicting interpretations of the law that has led to squabbles over senior appointments.

Under Section 35 of the Universities Act, the councils are then expected to appoint VCs, their deputies, principals and deputy principals in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary.

Kenya Association of Private Universities chairman Mumo Kisau, December 2020. [David Njaaga,Standard]

At the same time, Section 39 of the Universities Act also empowers the Cabinet Secretary to appoint VCs.

These two sections of the law have muddled VCs hiring process by creating a lacuna that has caused more confusion.

Proponents of the law argued that hiring VCs and DVCs through the PSC would ensure appointments to the top management use the right criteria and also de-ethnicise the process.

VCs, however, argued that giving roles to the PSC is tantamount to micro-managing the institutions and depriving them of autonomy.

On the appointment of Council members, VCs have also rejected a proposal to have the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Education from transferring the officers.

They want the law to provide that the Cabinet Secretary shall reserve the right to revoke the appointment of any Chairperson of Council and Council member appointed under the provisions of this law following due process.

The Standard
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