Maasai Mara University in race to appoint VC as Joseph Chacha retires

Maasai Mara University

Maasai Mara University in Narok County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The university has not had a substantive VC since 2019 when the then Mary Walingo was forced to step aside over the "Mara heist".
  • It is also grappling with a court case by Prof Walingo, wwho is seeking more than Sh80 million in salary arrears that she says the institution owes her. 

Narok County's Maasai Mara University is staring at a leadership crisis, with just days to acting vice-chancellor (VC) Joseph Chacha's retirement on June 1.

This has prompted the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu), to pile pressure for the Ministry of Education to appoint a substantive VC as well as a council.

The university has not had a substantive VC since 2019 when Mary Walingo was forced to step aside over the "Mara heist".

It is also grappling with a court case by Prof Walingo, wwho is seeking more than Sh80 million in salary arrears that she says the institution owes her. 

It is also required to pay the Sh 62 million allowances it owes members of Kusu, the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha). Kusu is demanding a total of Sh26 million, Kudheiha Sh6 million and Uasu Sh30 million.

In a statement at the weekend, Kusu's Narok branch secretary Galfen Omuse said Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu's delay in appointing a new council is negatively affecting the university's operations.

"This university has operated for several months now without a university council, bringing operations to a standstill because various approvals and policy directions are required for the varsity to function fully," he siad.

The union wants CS Machogu to appoint a sober, reliable and competent council as soon as possible for the university to jumpstart its operations.

"The university has had several acting VCs and DVCs since 2019. It has been grappling with serious leadership challenges that have it run down,” he said in a statement.

"The current acting VC is due for retirement. This poses the serious risk of a constitutional crisis at the university as it will have neither a council nor a substantive VC and DVC."

Other key issues

Upon Prof Walingo’s exit, the council picked Prof Kitche Magak, who ran the varsity for two years before he was hounded out as the PhD certificate he acquired from Washington University came under scrutiny.

Prof Chacha has been at the helm of the university since January last year.

The unionists also decried the suspension of the CBA 2017/2021 and its implementation in October 2021, a move that forced Kusu, Uasu and Kudheiha to move to court.

They said the Labour court in Nakuru ruled against the university in the three cases and that it was dragged into the protracted court cases by individuals who were out to milk it dry through appeals.

Kusu further said Maasai Mara has spent a total of Sh30 million defending a case where the unions were demanding Sh62 million, bringing its management's wisdom into question.

"The university seems to be running a syndicate by engaging a battery of lawyers all over, placing cases in every court [and] defending cases that should have been resolved administratively," read the statement.

The unionist further called on the Ministry of Education, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) to speedily conduct a forensic audit of Maasai Mara’s accounts.

He noted this will rule out cases of money laundering and the illegal mass transfer of its funds to the accounts of individuals,lawyers and contractors who at some point offered services.

Kusu also decried stagnation in job grades for the last 13 years, a matter it said was hurting staff morale.

The 'Mara heist'

The university came to the limelight in 2019 due to the ‘Mara heist’ that involved the loss of Sh177 million.

Prof Walingo was sent home in 2019, after a Citizen TV expose implicated her in the graft scandal.

She filed an appeal at the Public Service Commission (PSC), which ordered her reinstatement pending the conclusion of the case.

Despite consistently following up on the enforcement of the PSC’s decision, the university remained adamant and refused to enforce the decision, prompting her to turn to court.

Among the respondents in the case were the Maasai Mara University, its council and the Education minister.

In her case, Prof Walingo told the Employment and Labour Relations Court that the university council had continued to intimidate, harass and discriminate against her by implying she was unable to conduct her duties.

On February 20, the court ordered her reinstatement and directed that she be paid the half her salary that accrued since her suspension.

Noting that the PSC had no objection to the implementation of the order, the court adopted the decision of the PSC to reinstate her.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa ordered the university, the Education CS and the PSC  to begin implementing the PSC decision given in September 2022, that overruled Maasai Mara’s decision to terminate her employment.

Prof Walingo is, however, yet to report back to the university due to the existence of the acting VC.


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