The manner in which some of the unions representing staff of the University of Nairobi have dealt with the recruitment of senior officials is a matter of concern.
While the Constitution gives citizens freedom of speech and representation, it also recognises individual and associational rights.
The union representatives have chosen to ignore this as they present personal opinions that they purport to be representative of those of the membership. This is unfortunate because the public believes these views to be those of the staff of the university.
The employment processes in Kenya have evolved. Due process is required to be followed and recruitment officers are required to take many factors into consideration, such as gender, ethnic minorities, and physical ability.
These requirements go beyond paperwork and the performance of applicants during interviews and are, indeed, difficult to balance, especially as competence is also an important consideration.
Institutions of higher learning are not exempt in dealing with the challenges of recruitment and promotion. The trade unions have been quick to run to the media to either support or reject those proposed for consideration for employment even before the results of the interview are out.
It is questionable whether these are the wishes of the union membership or just the views of individuals in the union’s leadership, because no meetings are called to come up with a common stand on important issues such as recruitment of senior staff at the university. This is abuse of freedom of expression and association.
RECRUITING WITHOUT INTEREFERENCE
Public management reforms are important and academicians should discuss the legal and administrative procedures of recruitment. These are, indeed, serious matters of public interest.
At what point should other factors come into play in competitive recruitment? Some argue that it should be at the short-listing stage to save the applicants who do not qualify the trouble of going through rigorous interviews, only to be told that one does not qualify because of their ethnicity or physical ability.
The belief here is that if one does go through the interview process, the only factor that can lead to disqualification should be integrity. The other variables should be moderated during short-listing to avoid the controversies that have dogged such recruitments.
University staff unions should not usurp the powers of the institutions charged with recruiting staff. University councils should be allowed to carry out their mandate of recruiting without interference unless there is enough evidence to suggest that members are acting without integrity.
If the unions are not satisfied with the process, they can use administrative and legal means to register their complaints. If all these channels fail, unions can call out the membership to demand action.
The media reports and debate surrounding the recruitment of the deputy vice-chancellor, Administration and Finance, at the University of Nairobi seem to be based on unfounded speculation.
Prof Mitullah is an associate research professor at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi. [email protected]