Yesterday, the council chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo held a meeting where the letter by Prof Mbithi seeking a second term was tabled. The University of Nairobi council will today make a major decision on whether to hand Vice-Chancellor Prof Peter Mbithi another term.
However, Prof Ojiambo declined to discuss the issue as it emerged that two deputy vice-chancellors are also eyeing the converted position.
News reaching us confirms that some council members want the exercise shelved to allow for the review of the Public Universities Act, 2018, which gave the Public Service Commission power to recruit VCs and other senior administrators.
On Thursday last week, while meeting with university bosses in Nairobi, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha assured them that the law would be amended to give back the power to the councils to hire top managers.
The UoN council members who will be making the decision are Mr Kariuki Muchemi, Ms Flora Mtuweta, Mighulo Mghanga, Dr Jocelyn Marie Rarieya, Mr Hassan Abdi Mohamud, Mr Isaac Chebon Kiprop, Mr Samuel Kiiru (representative of the National Treasury), and Dr Kevit Desai (representative of the Ministry of Education).
Should Prof Mbithi be kicked out, those likely to replace him are Prof Stephen Kiama or Prof Julius A. Ogeng’o.
Prof Kiama is the acting deputy VC in charge of human resource and administration. He was previously the Principal, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences. Prof Ogeng’o is the acting deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of academic affairs.
As Prof Mbithi seeks re-appointment, the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) accuse him of incompetence. Uasu further accuses him of spending Sh20 million on his office furniture at a time when the institution is in “financial distress”. The secretary of the institution’s Uasu chapter, George Omondi said the university has become insolvent because Prof Mbithi is incompetent and claimed that he was intimidating lecturers to support his application for the contract extension.
However, Prof Mbithi has denied all the accusations by the union.
He said the university has a large asset base, human resource capital and a global partnership scale “and is therefore not capable of collapsing nor can it be allowed to collapse.” The university, he said, is experiencing financial problems caused by a 30 percent reduction on government funds and the interruption of academic programmes for eight months in 2017 due to a strike by lecturers.
The latest Auditor-General report for the last financial year shows the university has liabilities of Sh5.7 billion, while assets stand at Sh4.2 billion, resulting in negative working capital of Sh1.4 billion. The report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko tabled in Parliament last month says the university is unable to meet its financial obligations such as remitting taxes of Sh282 million, Sh3 million to the National Social Security Fund, Sh10 million to the National Health Insurance Fund, Sh204 million to Chuna Sacco and Sh1.5 billion to the Higher Education Loans Board.
Prof Mbithi was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor on December 1, 2014 and took up the position on January 6, 2015 for a five–year term and which ends in January 2020.The law requires that vice-chancellors indicate in writing to the council their interest for re-appointment at least six months before expiry of a running contract.