How Machogu saved Egerton University from financial brink

Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu. Background, Egerton University main gate. [File, Standard]

For over three years, workers at Egerton University have been grappling with a 40 per cent pay cut occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic that affected its revenue streams.

For the umpteenth time, University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) members were to strike effective January 1, 2024, setting the institution to a bad start in the new year.

The Njoro-based facility was however saved at the last minute through the intervention of the Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu.

The Standard has established that a high-powered delegation secured an appointment with the CS days before the strike date, leading to relief.

The delegation led by Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage, his deputies, finance officers, and union representatives met the CS at Jogoo House on January 3, 2024.

Although the Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) had not issued a strike notice on its part, it was also represented in the delegation.

Details of the meeting remained scanty with neither the ministry nor the university management willing to issue an official statement on the deliberations and outcomes.

Egerton Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

“That was a meeting of the Education CS and therefore I cannot comment on it. He is best placed to divulge the details,” said Prof Kibwage in a phone interview.

However, the CS could not be reached for comment as phone calls went unanswered.

“The university has a monthly deficit of Sh68 million on its payroll. During the meeting, the management was ordered to find a way of ensuring this gap is bridged by the end of this month,” a senior member of the management not authorised to speak on behalf of the institution revealed.

Kusu Egerton Chapter vice-chairman Joshua Langat, who was part of the delegation, confirmed the directive to the management from the ministry.

“The CS was very receptive and we are happy that he guaranteed us that our January 2024 salary will be paid in full. The issue of the strike is now overtaken by events but a notice to withdraw it may be done as a formality,” said Langat.

He further revealed that the staff will have their deferred pay settled at a later date through the ministry.

“It was agreed that the deferred pay be forwarded to the Ministry of Education as a pending bill. The CS said that the arrears will be considered in an upcoming supplementary budget,” said Langat.

Other issues agreed on were reverting to normal remittance of pension, and medical benefits and the implementation of pending collective bargaining agreements.

Uasu Egerton Chapter Secretary Dr Grace Kibue reiterated that the meeting with the CS was fruitful and that they were looking forward to the management’s compliance.

Uasu Egerton Chapter Secretary Dr Grace Kibue. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“We are glad that the ministry has heard our cry. It has taken long for the management to do the right thing. Our persistence has paid up,” said Dr Kibue.

Recent financial outlook released by the university however indicates that this may not be as easy due to the financial hole in its budget for the current financial year.

According to data released by the university’s Chief Finance Officer Charles Wanjohi, the university has a deficit of Sh820 million accruing from the Sh68 million monthly deficit.

Its total revenue available for the year amounts to Sh2.77 billion which, according to Wanjohi, can only cater for 70 per cent of salaries and other operational costs.

The university's total debt amounts to over Sh8 billion.

All eyes are now on how the university management board will make its financial adjustments to adhere to the ministry’s directive.