Public universities are only paying their staff net salaries due to a financial crisis they are facing.
Vice Chancellors Committee chairman Francis Aduol said even though universities are indicating statutory deductions on payslips running into billions of shillings, they are not remitting the money to the relevant institutions.
The shocking details emerged during a meeting between National Assembly’s Education Committee, Ministry of Education, National Treasury, public universities and lecturers.
The meeting was called to find a solution to the work boycott by university staff, among them lecturers, which has paralysed learning.
“More than 50 per cent of public universities with the current capitation from the government cannot manage to pay even the basic salaries of their staff," Prof Aduol said to the surprise of committee members.
He went on: “What we get is very little. If you are allocated Sh100 million, you need an additional Sh50 million to manage the institution.
"As committee members you should be worried how vice chancellors are able to operate from January to January with these limited resources.”
Nominated MP Wilson Sossion asked the government to take action against universities, saying it is criminal for them to deduct money from workers and fail to remit it.
But Prof Aduol said vice chancellors’ hands are tied and that they are ready to go to jail since they have nothing to pay lecturers.
National Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge and his University Education counterpart Japhet Ntiba attended the session that was chaired by MP Julius Melly.
Prof Ntiba promised to take up the matter, saying the situation is unacceptable.
Dr Thugge told the committee that Sh3 billion that is being demanded for pension by university staff since 2010 had not been brought to the attention of the ministry and that it was the first time that he was hearing of the issue.
The pension arrears have been pending and were part of the 2010-2013 and 2013-2017 collective bargaining agreement.
This was the first time that the parties were appearing jointly before the Committee since the start of the lecturers' strike last month, which has paralyzed learning in 31 public institutions.
Dr Thugge said the government had met its obligation in ensuring that university staff were paid their dues, noting that for 2010-2013 period, Sh7.8 billion was allocated for the CBA while in 2013-2017 Sh10 billion was allocated.
Prof Ntiba was caught in the mess after Prof Aduol told the committee that all details on the issue had been shared with the Ministry of Education.
“Since 2010, we have been having correspondences with the Ministry of Education on the issue of pension and we do not understand how it failed to give the details to National Treasury,” he disclosed.
He said after an audit of data, universities are asking for Sh1.27 billion as pension for 2010-2013 and Sh1.7billion for 2013-2017 CBA making a total of Sh3 billion.
This is a revision from Sh3.5 billion that universities were earlier on demanding.
Prof Ntiba promised to relook at the issue of pension and engage the National Treasury, saying the issue had been brought to his attention when he assumed office in February.
“We have formed an inter-ministerial committee on university education in order to help us coordinate activities. We are making progress,” the PS, who admitted that during his first few days in office he could not understand what was going on at the ministry, said.