Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) George Magoha has ordered public universities to settle pension and tax debts amounting to Sh16.5 billion.
He has told the universities not to expect any funds from the government for the debts and asked them to find ways of paying up urgently.
The universities are in tax arrears of Sh8.1 billion and Sh8.4 billion in unremitted pensions.
“Some of these funds were allocated in the 2010-2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for lecturers and the National Treasury is emphatic that there is no reason for failure to comply,” he says in a letter addressed to the 30 vice-chancellors.
“The affected universities can engage the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) to waive interest or to negotiate an agreeable payment schedule from the approved government and appropriation aid budget allocations,” says Prof Magoha.
The CS has also ordered the universities to rationalise staff, close down loss-making campuses and ensure prudent financial management and planning within the available resources.
Though he attributes the accumulation of huge pending bills on declining revenues from student fees, he blames bloated staff, unviable campuses and poor management for the cash crisis.
In a move aimed at forestalling a strike by thousands of lecturers to protest against failure to implement a new CBA for 2017-2021, the minister says the process for a new deal is now on course after the conclusion of a court case between the Universities Academic Staff Union and the Salaries Remuneration Committee on job evaluation.
Prof Magoha says he will invite all finance officers from public universities to a 10-day retreat to prepare subsector report on the Ministry of Education He also asked the institutions to ensure they address all issues raised by the Auditor-General Edward Ouko in his report for the last financial year.
Mr Ouko singled out the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Multimedia University as some of those steeped in cash woes that have seen them fail to remit statutory deductions to KRA, RBA, National Hospital Insurance Fund and Saccos.