Kenya: UON VC Prof Peter Mbithi to Know Fate Today

University of Nairobi council will on Wednesday make a major decision on whether to hand Vice Chancellor Prof Peter Mbithi another term.

On Tuesday, the council chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo held a meeting where the letter by Prof Mbithi seeking a second term and where he outlined several achievements was tabled and each member of the council given a copy to study.

However, Prof Ojiambo declined to discuss the issue as it emerged that two deputy Vice-chancellors at the University are eyeing the coveted position.

It also emerged that some council members are of the idea that the exercise be shelved in order to allow a review of public Universities Act 2018 which gave the Public service Commission (PSC) powers to recruit Vice-Chancellors and other senior administrators.

On Thursday last week, while meeting the Vice-chancellors in Nairobi, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha assured them that the law will be amended in order to give councils back power to hire top managers.

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UoN council members who will be making the decision are; Mr Kariuki Muchemi, Ms Flora Mtuweta, Mighulo Mghanga, Dr Jocelyn Marie Rarieya, Mr Hassan Abdi Mohamud, Mr Isaac Chebon Kiprop, Mr Samuel Kiiru - Representative of the Principal Secretaries for National Treasury and Dr Kevit Desai - Representative of the Ministry of Education.

Supposing Prof Mbithi is kicked out, one of those likely to take his position are Prof Stephen Kiama who is currently acting as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (human resource and administration).

Prof Kiama was the Principal, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences before his appointment in acting capacity. The other potential candidate is the acting Deputy Vice chancellor (academic affairs).

While asking for a new term, Prof Mbithi outlined several achievements during his first term but the University academic staff union (Uasu) argues the VC has achieved nothing.

Uasu has accused him of spending Sh20 million on his office furniture at a time when the institution is in "financial distress". However, Prof Mbithi has denied accusations by the union.

The secretary of the institution's Uasu chapter George Omondi said the university was insolvent because Prof Mbithi is incompetent and claimed that he was intimidating lecturers to support his application for a contract extension.

The VC was appointed on December 1, 2014 and took up the position on January 6, 2015 for a five -year term and which lapses in January 2020.

The law requires that vice-chancellors indicate in writing to the council their interest for re-appointment at least six months before expiry of a running contract.

Prof Mbithi said the university has a large asset base, human resource capital and a global partnership scale "and is therefore not capable of collapsing nor can it be allowed to collapse."

The university, he said, is experiencing financial problems caused by a 30 per cent reduction on government funds and the interruption of academic programmes for eight months in 2017 due to a strike by lecturers.

The latest Auditor General report for the last financial year shows the university has liabilities of Sh5.7 billion, while assets stand at Sh4.2 billion, resulting in negative working capital of Sh1.4 billion. T

he report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko tabled in Parliament last month says the university is unable to meet its financial obligations such as remitting taxes of Sh282 million, Sh3 million to the National Social Security Fund, Sh10 million to the National Health Insurance Fund, Sh204 million to Chuna Sacco and Sh1.5 billion to the Higher Education Loans Board.

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