Public universities no longer at ease as fund allocation hits snag

Kenyatta University entrance. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Public universities are staring at another tough year as the government fails to allocate Sh74 billion to stabilise the institutions.

More jobs could be lost as some institutions are shut following the huge budget deficit.

A number of universities are already reeling under huge debt that has hurt operations.

Documents tabled in Parliament by University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi showed that of the Sh167.8 billion requested, only Sh72.3 billion was allocated.

University managers are having a hard time running the institutions with the huge funding gap. Last year, Moi University and Egerton University admitted they had accrued more than Sh5 billion in debt each.

The situation was the same for Kenyatta University which said it owed Kenya Revenue Authority and suppliers more than Sh5.6 billion. In addition, the university said it was running on a deficit of Sh1.3 billion. The situation at Kenyatta University was so dire that KRA froze its accounts over Sh2 billion in unpaid taxes.

The crisis in universities was precipitated last year by huge funding gaps of about Sh54 billion. In the 2021-22 financial year, universities required Sh149 billion but were only allocated Sh95 billion (inclusive of Sh4.3 billion infrastructure funds). In 2022-23, the gap goes up to Sh74 billion, signalling tough times for the institutions of higher learning.

In his presentation to the National Assembly Education Committee, Nabukwesi said most universities are unable to meet statutory obligations. He said they cannot remit deductions to KRA or pay pensions and Pay As You Earn (PAYE).

“The pending bills as of June 30, 2021, are Sh42.3 billion. However, since then, the bills have been accumulating on monthly basis,” said Nabukwesi.

On research and innovation, Nabukwesi said only Sh920 million has been allocated against the request of Sh2.6 billion. 

“Low funding of research continues to hurt the implementation of approved projects,” the PS said. Concern has been growing that incomplete projects in public universities, which by 2020 stood at Sh52.8 billion would attract penalties.

The Standard
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