Give me powers to control rogue university councils, Magoha urges MPs

Friday, October 8th, 2021 00:08 |
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha during a past event. Photo/PD/File

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has asked Parliament to pass the Universities Amendments Bill to enable him to rein in boards overseeing running of the institutions.

Appearing before the Education Committee, Magoha said that currently he is not able to make any changes in the universities as the councils have been acting as if they are independent of the ministry.

Magoha, who was responding to questions from members of the committee, disclosed that universities had resorted to making far-reaching decisions such as fees increments without consulting the ministry which is the policy maker.

“Please members pass these amendments so that you can give me back my powers so that I can be able to deal with some of these rogue university councils. Some of them are so rogue that they are spending money the way they want and if you touch any of them they take you to court,” he said.

He added: “If I had the powers, I would have dealt with some of these problems that we are facing because these councils have resorted to making decisions without consulting me.”

Court cases

Accompanied by his Principal Secretary Julius Jwan, Magoha cited the corruption allegations at Maasai Mara University, the recent decision by the University of Nairobi (UoN) to increase school fees and the problem of missing marks as some of the issues that the ministry cannot intervene because it does not have the powers.

In the case of Maasai Mara University, Magoha said attempts by the ministry to deal with the matter had not been successful due to court cases.

“In the case of Maasai Mara University you touch one person and you are taken to court. There is nothing much I can do,” he noted.

Regarding UoN, Magoha said the university had increased school fees without consulting the ministry.

According to him, a review of fees should only be considered after public participation of all stakeholders .

UoN recently increased its tuition fees by as high as 118 per cent. Following the move, the cost of Masters courses such as Communication and MBA increased to more than Sh600,000 up from an average of Sh275,000.

Committee chairperson Florence Mutua said they were fast-tracking the Bill.

“It is currently undergoing public participation. We know that the CS has no powers and we need to give him his powers back,” said the Busia Woman Representative.

Last month, the National Assembly Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya tabled the Bill that seeks to give the Education CS control over university councils which are the top decision making organs in the institutions of higher learning.

The Bill also seeks to amend the Universities Act 2012 to,, among others things, give the Cabinet Secretary for Education powers to hire and fire university council members and overturn any of their decisions.

“The principle act is amended by inserting the following new section. As the designated appointing authority, the Cabinet Secretary shall have power to revoke any appointment to, or transfer or otherwise deploy the chairperson or any member of the council,” reads the amendment Bill.

It also intends to limit the number of vice chancellors to three and have the appointment of VCs and their deputies done by a selection panel.

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