Lawyer Suyianka Lempaa

Lawyer Suyianka Lempaa who sued the Maasai Mara University council, AG Kihara Kariuki and the Education ministry, arguing that Prof Magak’s qualifications are bogus.

| File | Nation Media Group

Mara VC case exposes recruitment protocol as weak link

Controversy surrounding embattled Maasai Mara University acting boss Prof Kiche Magak has exposed weak recruitment protocols at the troubled institution.

Last November, lawyer Suyianka Lempaa sued the Maasai Mara University council, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki and the Education ministry, arguing that Prof Magak’s qualifications are bogus and that continuous extension of his authority was being done irregularly.

In his suit, Mr Lempaa challenged Maasai Mara University’s claim that Prof Magak is best suited to lead the institution on account of his vast qualifications.

The lawyer cited a letter from American authorities to the effect that Washington International University, where Prof Magak attained his doctorate degree, is not an accredited institution.

In addition to faulting the university’s appointment of Prof Magak, Mr Lempaa also argued that the institution’s own rules allow for an acting vice chancellor to stay in office for no more than 180 days, which is about six months.

Prof Magak has been in office for 20 months since his May, 2020, appointment.

Mr Lempaa has asked the courts to declare Prof Magak's tenure as acting vice-chancellor quashed, and a declaration made that the position fell vacant 180 days after the embattled don assumed office.

Mr Lempaa is also seeking orders that Maasai Mara University students' rights as consumers of the institution's services have been violated by the hiring of an unqualified vice-chancellor whose term was irregularly extended.

He also wants compensation for violation of his rights as a Kenyan citizen.

"The 1st Respondent (Maasai Mara University Council) therefore failed to exercise due diligence in hiring the 2nd Respondent (Prof Magak) as a professor and subsequently resolving that out of the three full professors available for consideration for appointment to the position of acting vice-chancellor, the 2nd Respondent was the most suitable,” Mr Lempaa said.

“The 2nd Respondent was appointed in acting capacity on or about September, 2020, pursuant to section 26(3) of the Maasai Mara University Charter, 2013 which provides that the appointee can only perform the functions of the vice- chancellor for a maximum period of 180 calendar days,” the lawyer added.

Mr Lempaa’s suit followed a petition by the Kenya Universities Staff Union to the National Assembly in which Prof Magak’s papers were challenged.

The lawyer has asked the High Court to compel Maasai Mara University to adhere to its own laws and cease extension of Prof Magak’s term at the helm.

But the suit now hangs in the balance, as the government has demoted Prof Magak who will now face investigations by both the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

It is still unclear whether Prof Magak will resume teaching as investigations into his qualifications proceed.

Interestingly, Prof Magak’s predecessor is facing corruption allegations following a story aired by a local media house, which revealed that Prof Mary Walingo could have been behind the theft of at least Sh177 million from the institution.

Before the dust settled on Prof Walingo’s alleged corruption scheme, her temporary successor has run into trouble with education and security authorities.

Lobby groups including the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, Amnesty International and Transparency International last year accused Prof Magak and the university's management of intimidating witnesses following the dismissal of an auditor who blew the whistle on the alleged Sh177 million theft.

The auditor, Mr Spencer Sankale, was dismissed in June, 2021.

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