A court has stopped the ongoing recruitment of three senior staff at Kisii University after accusations the institution structured its adverts to suit certain individuals.
The order by Justice Stephen Radido follows a petition by the Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) which sought a fresh start of the hiring process over fears unqualified individuals may end up taking the positions if the requirements are not revised.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court judge in Kisumu consequently ordered the university to restart the hiring process and ensure only qualified candidates fill the positions of registrar (Administration), registrar (Academics), and registrar (Research).
KUSU told the court that it found the recruitment process wanting, claiming the university embarked on filling the three positions of registrar through dubious adverts that would end up giving unqualified people these lucrative positions.
“An order is hereby issued quashing the recruitment process through the advertisement on the respondent’s website and local dailies on or about February 17, 2023, for failing to comply with the Kisii University Career Progression Guidelines (Scheme of Service) 2014,” said Justice Radido.
He added: “It cannot be lost to the court that the university is a public institution, and it is obligated to observe the tenets imbuing recruitment within the public service as envisaged under the constitution.”
The judge issued subsequent orders compelling the university to immediately restart the recruitment process for the positions in a competitive, transparent, fair and open manner with due compliance to all constitutional, statutory and legal provisions.
The union had noted the position of registrar (academics) required a candidate to have a PhD and be of the rank of associate professor and above, and chairmanship or deanship in a university.
But in the declaration of vacancies, the university set out some of the requirements for the office as holders of a PhD degree of at least three years and an extensive experience in administration of at least three years at the level of deputy registrar or equivalent position and deanship.
“The requirement for candidates to have served as an associate professor was omitted,” noted the union in its court documents.
KUSU also pointed out that for the position of registrar (administration), the requirement for candidates is that they should be holders of a Counselors and Psychologists Society of Kenya CPS(K) certificate which was also cleverly omitted.
The positions, according to the university’s scheme of service, generally require one to have a PhD in a relevant field with three years of experience, together with a CPS(K) certificate or a master’s degree in a relevant field with five years of experience, amongst others.
The union sued the university on March 9, 2023, accusing it of violating the process of recruitment to the positions.
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KUSU said Kisii University also violated its career progression guidelines, 2014, section 29 of the Human Resource Management Professionals Act, section 34 of the Public Service Commission Act, section 10 of the Public Service Act, 2015, the Statute XI of the Kisii University Statutes, 2020 as well as several provisions of the constitution.
The court heard that the university had started a process to promote and confirm certain employees who had acted for long in the offices without advertising their posts for competitive replacement.
Hurriedly stopped process
When the matter came to the fore, the university is said to have hurriedly stopped the process and opted to follow due procedure by advertising the positions through what the union later challenged as "questionable adverts."
The union further contended that without a substantive chair of the University Council, the recruitments could not lawfully proceed.
The union, however, failed to stop the recruitment process of the university’s chief planning officer and human resource manager whose adverts, the court held, had complied with the constitution and relevant university laws.
The university unsuccessfully tried to persuade the court to throw out the petition by the union calling it a trade dispute which could have been solved through simple consensus between it and the union without bothering it (court).
However, the court observed the case transcends what constitutes a trade dispute under labour laws and went ahead to rule on it.