Lecturers blame oversight agencies for woes in public varsities

Egerton University. [File, Standard]

Lecturers at Egerton University have accused State agencies tasked with oversight of public universities of being behind the problems bedevilling the institutions of higher learning.

The dons said the agencies turned a blind eye to red flags raised by bodies such as the Auditor General years ago.

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Egerton chapter secretary Grace Kibue said that the government should look into who failed to perform their duties first.

"The Auditor General releases audit reports every year. All along, there have been indicators that the universities are sinking into financial mess yet nothing was done," said Dr Kibue.

She pointed out that if the agencies had played their role, universities would have been strict and ensured resources were well managed.

"At Egerton for instance, audit reports from the past over six years raised queries but no follow-up was made to a logical conclusion. It is due to this laxity we are here today," said Kibue.

Workers at Egerton University have in the last four years complained about failure by the institution to remit pension deductions.

"Where has the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) been when the university continued to withhold pension contributions? It is nearly five years and no action has been taken," said Kibue.

According to audit reports, the university owes its employees' retirement benefits scheme over Sh2.1 billion.

"Public universities are the best to offer higher education and research. They have however been neglected by the agencies mandated by law to keep them in check," she said.

Dr Kibue called on the government to reconsider its plan to privatise some of the public universities, saying this would only worsen challenges in the institutions of higher learning.

"Public universities are public good funded by the public for the republic. We seriously oppose this proposal. This is unheard of in any country that Kenya would compare itself with," she said.

She called on the government to instead bail out the universities and put strict measures to ensure those tasked with managing them are held accountable for their actions.

"Even as we use all lawful methods to pursue justice, our eyes are on President William Ruto to come to our rescue. We are still holding on to his promises during campaigns," said Kibue.

Mwaniki Ngare, the chapter chairperson, said the government should consider changing the management of the cash-strapped institutions, including Egerton whose debt has hit Sh9 billion.

"We have been having the same management for almost six years. We are not expecting them to do any magic. If it was a personal business, such managers would have been shown the door long ago," said Prof Mwaniki.

He said their 21-day strike notice had been temporarily suspended by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.