10 July 2019

Kenya: UON Vice-Chancellor Replacement Runs Into Labour Court Hurdle

The Employment and Labour Relations court has certified as urgent a case challenging the recruitment of a new vice-chancellor at the University of Nairobi (UoN) after Prof Peter Mbithi was asked to go on compulsory leave.

Justice Maureen Onyango issued the directive after a Mr George Baraza sued the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Council of UoN and the Attorney-General in the case in which Prof Mbithi is listed as an interested party.

"I am satisfied that the matter is urgent and therefore I certify it as urgent, parties to come for a hearing on July 10," said Justice Onyango.

According to Mr Baraza, the law requires the University Council to appoint university vice chancellors and principals of constituent colleges as well as their deputies.

He cited an advertisement in newspapers on June 28 indicating that the recruitment for the UoN next vice-chancellor will be done by the PSC in his argument for an urgent hearing.

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He also protested against the fact that Prof Mbithi had been asked by the university to submit himself before PSC for an interview if he seeks to serve a second term.

He said that the law requires recruitment of all other officers, except that of the position of a vice chancellor, to be appointed by the PSC.

Mr Baraza therefore faulted the university for what he terms as abdicating its responsibility to PSC.

Moreover, he argued that the fact that another Section of the PSC Act also gives the commission powers to extend a term of contract, that was a conflict between two bodies on who is supposed to take charge of the current recruitment.

"The sued parties are jointly and severely contravening the provisions of the Constitution and statute law therefore the court should invoke its jurisdiction to interrogate the contraventions," said his lawyer.

On June 26, the UoN council thanked Prof Mbithi for his service to the university before sending him on terminal leave.

He was appointed on December 1, 2014, and took up the position on January 6, 2015, for a five-year term set to lapse in January 2020.

Mr Baraza wants the fresh recruitment suspended and the decision to send Prof Mbithi on compulsory leave quashed.

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