Public university chiefs on Wednesday dismissed findings of a government audit that exposed massive tribal imbalances in staffing at their institutions.
Some of them claimed the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) got its facts wrong on the ethnic representation in the seven public universities and 16 colleges.
Others said it was difficult to balance staff according to tribes since that would lower performance in universities, while others said some workers were keen on working in certain institutions. (READ: Kenya ethnic bastions on campus exposed)
Moi University Vice Chancellor, Prof Richard Mibey, defended his institution against claims that it was among those promoting ethnicity in public universities through its hiring system.
Prof Mibey said the university’s staff was drawn from various communities in the country who were hired based on their competence to handle the tasks assigned to the positions they hold.
“The composition of staff is diverse and it starts right from when these employees were in this university. When we recruit afresh, we do so guided by the rules and guidelines for hiring staff, which are clearly against any form of discrimination,” Prof Mibey said.
The vice chancellor who is serving his second term at the university said members of the Kalenjin community with the requisite qualifications were also free to apply and work at the university if they emerged to be the best for the positions they apply for.
“They cannot be shoved aside because they are from this community, where the university is based,” he said.
He added: “We cannot afford to celebrate ethnicity and expect to remain afloat,” Prof Mibey said.
He said the only vacancies available for the local people were subordinate ones like being cleaners, because it is not easy to get people interested in those jobs from areas far away.
He said, out of about 15 deans of various schools within the university, only three are from the Kalenjin community, besides his two deputies coming from Western and Nyanza region.
According to the NCIC report, the Kalenjin make up 55 per cent of the work force at Moi University.
Masinde Muliro University Vice Chancellor Wangila Barasa said the auditor had not fully analysed issues. Prof Barasa said a third of the staff at Masinde Muliro belonged to communities from outside the Western region.
“The analysis is not comprehensive, since there are many factors leading to choice of where (one) applies for employment,” said Prof Wangila.
According to the report, the Luhya occupy 68.9 per cent of major jobs at the university.
But Prof Barasa argued that those applying for jobs in respective universities were driven by certain factors in their choice to work those institutions.
Report not structured
The VC said the report was not properly structured and had not brought the specific issues on the matter.
At Pwani University College, the NCIC was accused of fanning tribal feelings among Kenyans by just giving out figures of employees in various organisations without explaining the genesis of the current situation.
Senior assistant registrar Owen Baya said the figures the commission had published would create tension among Kenyans instead of providing solutions.
According to the NCIC report, 71 per cent of the work force at the campus is from the Mijikenda.
“There are factors that have contributed to this situation which Kenyans need to be told, because it will take time to reverse,” he said and warned: “With the current information the commission is belabouring into the minds of Kenyans it will be difficult for us to for instance employ, say, a Kikuyu in the future.”
However, he said, much as the institution advertises certain jobs, members from other communities were not willing to present their applications leaving management with no option but to consider the local community so long as they merited the advertised positions.
Vice Chancellor Maseno University Prof Dominic Makawiti said: “That is a sensitive issue, so I need more time to sit down and come up with a detailed report that is supported with facts.”
At Egerton University the NCIC audit noted the university was complying with the ethnic balancing in staffing policy.
Vice Chancellor James Tuitoek said the institution was compliant with government regulations on recruitment, which stipulate that no more than a third of the entire staff be from a single ethnic group. “There is no tribalism at Egerton,” said Prof Tuitoek.
Prof Tuitoek refused to comment on the lack of members of the so-called smaller tribes amongst its work force, only insisting that their staffing policy was within the law.
The other universities that were not flouting the policy were Multimedia University and Mombasa Polytechnic University College.
The Coast institution was, however said to have a massive 87.3 per cent of the five largest tribes in the country in its pay roll.
Laikipia University College principal Prof Francis Lelo said he had not read the report.
The report accused the five largest tribes in the country of dominating jobs in public universities in the country at the expense of members of the smaller tribes.
It further went on to say that a majority of the workers in 10 of the 15 universities surveyed came from the same ethnic group as the Vice Chancellors.
The five big tribes constitute 93 per cent of the work force in public universities. The communities christened the Big Five were listed as Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba, and Kalenjin.
Reports by Dennis Odunga, Benson Amadala, Lilian Ochieng’, Eddy Ngeta, Elisha Otieno, Geoffrey Rono and Gitonga Marete