Team formed to address varsities funding woes

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 00:00 |
University Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi. Photo/PD/FILE

The government has moved to address the financial crisis in public universities, a situation that has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

University Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi has formed a think-tank to look into the financial situation of institutions of higher learning and come up with modalities to ease the strain.

The 11-member team will be led by former Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Egara Kabaji.

“Kenyan universities are in a financial crisis and cannot effectively meet their financial obligations.

The crisis is not temporary instability. It is a permanent phenomenon that requires government mitigation,” said the PS.

Kabaji said the team, which was appointed last month, will hold its first meeting today.

“We will evaluate the situation and establish the debt burden each university is carrying and who it owes the debt.

That is when we can start considering strategies of coming out of the debts,” said Kabaji.

Debt burden

The think-tank’s tenure lapses on July 19 after which it will be expected to submit its report within two weeks.

Nabukwesi said there is need to develop and implement a new framework if universities will survive the current crisis.

The team is expected to categorise the institutions in terms of debt burden and develop a framework for stabilising universities as per each category.

It is also charged with the responsibility of coming up with ways of sourcing funding outside the Exchequer support and providing practical steps of realising this.

Its mandate includes establishing a network of professional advisers and education information centres that promotes Kenya’s higher education worldwide and offer international students information on the application process, admission requirements, potential scholarship funding, visas and living in the country.

“In undertaking the tasks, the think tank will among others refer to available laws, policies and regulations including the ministerial policy brief on sustainable university financing,” the PS directed.

Kabaji will work with University of Nairobi’s Institute of Development Studies Director Prof Karuti Kanyinga, Kenyatta University Registrar Dr John Gachanja, Prof Paul Baki of Technical University of Kenya (TUK), Masai Mara DVC Prof Godrick Matthews Bulitia, Technical University of Mombasa Dean Prof Ralma Udu and DVC Dedan Kimathi University Prof Esther Magiri.

Others are University of Kabianga Dean Dr Joyce Kiplimo, Meru university Director of Research and innovation director Prof Guyo Sarr Huka, JKUAT Chairperson of Department Dr Florence Kyalo, Kibabii University Dean Prof Franklin Wabwoba and the Ministry’s Deputy Director of Research Vainadu Zakayo Ingana.

The secretariat will have two members: ministry’s Deputy and Assistant Director of Research Joseph Gatama and Dr Kioko Mwania respectively.

Last month, Nabukwesi said while the government had remained steadfast in funding institutions of higher learning, the situation had been complicated by adverse effects of Covid-19 pandemic on various economic sectors.

“At the ministry, we are on the drawing board together with officials of all universities and other stakeholders to try and explore possible solutions to financial instability in our universities.

Stakeholders have dropped many proposals to my desk including a think tank of experts to undertake the assignment within a given timeframe to try and come up with a lasting remedy to this crisis,” said Nabukwesi.

He urged universities to redouble their efforts to generate supplementary income to address resource scarcity and that research institutions embrace inter-disciplinary collaborative approaches, especially with industry, to attract funding.

The PS  also said the ministry would support commercialisation of products produced by universities.

Nabukwesi said many universities have a debt with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for failing to remit statutory deduction, a situation he described as worrying.

“We need to ask ourselves how public universities can be empowered to survive the financial crunch,” he stated.

For instance, by September last year Nabukwesi said public universities had a total of Sh34 billion in unremitted statutory payments.

The unremitted payments include those of KRA, pension scheme dues, insurance premiums, Sacco contributions, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Some of the universities with high amount of unpaid remittances, said the PS were Moi University, Egerton University, Technical University of Kenya and the University of Nairobi.

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