Jogoo House hand in varsities appointments suspect

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 00:00 |
Education CS Prof George Magoha.

Jerry Rawlings       

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha seems to have his in-tray on management of public universities full with a good number of them technically insolvent.

Latest statistics show they, cumulatively, owe over Sh37 billion. Much of this is in statutory deductions, which, is in the first place, is a crime.

If the law is followed to the letter, the varsities top managers, most of whom are in acting capacities, should be in jail. 

On top appointments at the universities, there is a general feeling the good professor is biting too much by usurping the powers of councils and seems unable to expedite the process of appointment partly due to political expediency and legal hurdles that compel him to do the right thing even when he doesn’t want it.

In some quotas, Prof Magoha has been described as a good minister for basic education with his ‘Management by Walking Around’ style, where he embarrasses and administers instant punishment to his officers in the field — the colonial style.

On appointment of top varsity managers, the law mandates Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct interviews and forward names of the top three candidates to councils for formal appointment in consultation with the CS. However, recent appointments seem not to respect the law.

The saga of appointing University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor was the most controversial.

Following the letter and spirit of Universities Act, UoN council acted on the results of the performance in the PSC interviews and appointed Prof Gitahi Kiama.

Magoha was not amused. He went to court, but realised the law was on the side of the council.

He threatened to degazette the council and once again realised this was equally unlawful.

In this battle, Jogoo House emerged bruised and dirty. It had to eat humble pie and solve the matter amicably outside the court.

The UoN saga was not an isolated case. The appointment of Kibabii DVC (Administration) was equally executed by the varsity council as per law. Jogoo House was upset but had no choice but accept the outcome.

The  appointment of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology DVC (Administration) has been in the news lately. Jogoo House trashed council’s choice of the best candidate in the PSC list and picked the third best.

The disregard of meritocracy, which the good professor is expected to stand for, sends a wrong signal to the academia.

Not when there are rumours the council chair was summoned to sign the letter of the third best candidate and whom the council did not recommend for the job!

Other universities with unfilled positions, but for which PSC did interviews and gave recommendation up to a year ago are Meru and Laikipia. 

In contrast, Jogoo House has appointed Taita Taveta VC less than six months after interviews . 

Indecisiveness and inability to employ meritocracy paints Jogoo House and the professor of urology in bad light. It also affects the running of the universities concerned. 

The latest saga in which Jogoo House is deeply involved is the appointment of council members of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, which a court declared illegal last week. 

Question is: Doesn’t the Ministry of Education have a legal officer to advise the CS? Why should he make mistake after mistake in running of university education? 

An equally important case in the courts is that involving the re-advertisement of the positions in the same university even after due process of interviewing top managers was done by PSC and qualifying candidates forwarded to the council for further processing over two years ago.

Public universities, being national institutions, seem to have been captured by local interests and the CS, who has approved the delocalisation policy at basic education level stands accused of playing the ethnic card at the university level.

The inability of Jogoo House to fill vacancies in varsities top management is not only stifling growth of the institutions, but also setting a bad precedent for other organs of government. If universities can’t get it right, who else will?    — The writer is a journalist and communication consultant in Nairobi

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