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Universities in limbo with VCs serving in acting capacity

Sunday January 19 2020

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha follows proceedings during release of the 2019 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results at Mitihani House in Nairobi on December 18, 2019. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) 2018 was signed into law in January 2019 to bring order into recruitment of top university administrators but, one year later, the chaos remains.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) has been unable to recruit vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors and principals of colleges and, where it has succeeded, the exercises have been challenged in court.

Last year's appointment of Prof George Magoha, once the University of Nairobi's VC, as Education Cabinet Secretary has not made the situation any better.


As such, several universities have been left with acting managers, the latest case involving UoN, where Prof Isaac Mbeche will continue to act until a substantive VC is appointed.

The university's council, chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo, appointed Prof Stephen Gitahi Kiama on January 5 but the CS revoked the decision. Prof Magoha also dissolved the council.


Prof Kiama had taken over from Prof Peter Mbithi and his installation had been set for Tuesday.

Prof Mbeche has been the acting VC since July 2019 when Prof Mbithi left the institution to pave way for recruitment of a substantive VC.


Last October, the Labour Court in Eldoret suspended the appointment of Prof Anne Nangulu as Bomet University College Principal.

Following a petition, the court also suspended the appointment of two Deputy Principals - Prof George Otieno (Deputy Principal, Academic and Student Affairs) and Prof Loice Maru (Deputy Principal, Administration and Finance).

At Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, all top four managers are also holding the positions in an acting capacity despite interviews mid last year.

The vacancy positions are VC and three deputy VCs, for Academic and Student Affairs, Administration and Finance, and Planning, Research and Innovation.

MMUST tapped Prof Joseph Bosire from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, where he was Deputy VC for Academic Affairs since December 2018.

He headed the institution until mid last year, when he was replaced with Prof Asenath Sigot. 

Dr Patrick Ojera is acting DVC Administration and Finance, Dr Benaditte Sabuni acting DVC Academic and Students Affairs, and Prof Charles Mutai acting DVC Planning , Research and Innovation.


At Taita-Taveta University, Prof Fred Simiyu Barasa was appointed acting VC after Prof Hamadi Boga was appointed Agriculture Principal Secretary in 2018.

At Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, the PSC conducted interviews for recruitment of the Academic Affairs and Administration DVCs.

However, Prof Robert Kinyua and Prof Bernard Wamuti Ikua are still holding the respective positions in an acting capacity.

In the case of Garissa University, the PSC has advertised the VC's post, while at Moi University, Prof Daniel Tarus is holding the Finance DVC position in acting capacity.

At Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Prof Washington Olima is temporarily holding the Planning and Administration position.

Kibabii and Laikipia universities have no substantive DVCs, Finance and Administration.


The amendment of Universities Act, 2012 took away the power of university councils to advertise, interview and recommend for appointment top university managers.

Those holding administrative positions in higher learning institutions have been unable to make executive decisions for their respective institutions.

In 2019, VCs warned that the decision to give recruitment powers to the PSC was undermining their academic freedom.

Prof Magoha has since indicated that the government will review the law on appointment of university administrators but it is not clear when.

Best human resource practices require that officials hold positions in an acting capacity for six months, a period during which the appointing authority is expected to put in place a mechanism for competitive recruitment.