Crisis-hit Egerton University gets new Vice-Chancellor

Outgoing Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Awuor Mwonya. She has been replaced by Prof Isaac Kibwage. 

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The embattled VC's departure comes at a time when the university is facing a myriad of financial and management challenges.
  • More than 500 dons at the institution have downed their tools over 40 per cent pay cuts.

Egerton University's first woman Vice-Chancellor, Prof Rose Mwonya, has been formally replaced by the institution ahead of the end of her first term as VC.

On Friday, the university announced the appointment of Prof Isaac Kibwage as the new Vice-Chancellor in an acting capacity.

“This is to bring to the attention of all staff and students that the University Council has appointed Prof Isaac Kibwage to act as Vice-Chancellor with effect from Friday, November 20 until further notice,” Registrar Human Capital and Administration, Dr Thomas Serem, said in a circular sent to staff and students.

The departure of the embattled VC comes at a time when the country’s premier Agricultural University is marred by a myriad of financial and management challenges which have put the institution on the radar of Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) over corruption allegations.

A recent audit report by Ms Theodora Gichana, the Inspector-General (Corporations), painted a grim picture of a chaotic institution that loses millions of shillings due to fraud or incompetence.

In her report in March, Gichana recommended that Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha should act swiftly to arrest the situation.

For the last four years Egerton University has been in the red. The deep financial crisis arises from fraud and mismanagement, the audit report revealed.

The institution has been struggling to meet its obligations, a situation the management previously blamed on insufficient resources.

Lecturers strike

However, the audit exposed an organisation that routinely flouts regulations.

The auditor said that the university may have lost up to Sh7.2 million for allowing an irregular change of mode of study of some students - from self-sponsored to regular programme.

However, the outgoing VC Prof Mwonya, has dismissed the findings.

The university is also facing one of its worst financial challenges since inception 81 years ago with the more than 500 dons having downed their tools after the university slashed their salaries by 40 per cent.

Striking lecturers

Striking Egerton University lecturers outside the Njoro Campus on November 4, 2020. The lecturers have downed their tools over pay cuts.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media group.

This has thrown the institution's academic calendar into disarray, as the strike which commenced on November 4 has disrupted the examinations of Fourth Year students.

Subsequently, the more than 2,000 students who were set to graduate in December may have to wait a little longer.

To avert the crisis, the university has suspended the phased resumption of continuing students until the lecturers resume their duties.

Efforts by the university to stop the strike on two occasions have flopped after the university’s lawyers failed to turn up at the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

The dons have stated that the strike will only be called off if they are paid their accruing arrears from April.

“We shall not accept the continued oppression of our members under the guise of an economic downturn because of Covid-19,” said Uasu National Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga.

Financial crisis

The university financial crisis has forced the university council to approve the retrenchment of about 400 workers to sustain its wage bill.

The university requires about Sh600million to roll out the massive retrenchment that will mostly affect non-teaching staff who are about 1,200.

The university's key projects worth Sh3.3billion have also stalled due to lack of funds which the institution blamed on reduced capitation from the government which has been reducing by about 26 per cent in the last four years.

Some of the hardest hit projects include Sh10million modern library, a security control checkpoint and associated buildings (Sh5.9million), a physical science complex (Sh33.4million) and renovation of student hostels and pavements(Sh1.3million).

Part-time lecturers are also demanding accrued unpaid salaries amounting to Sh930million, while staff pension fund is owed Sh9889.6million. There are also unspecified claims amounting to Sh131million.

The Kenya Revenue Authority is chasing the university for Sh692,2million while saccos are still waiting for Sh250.7million to be remitted.

Other unremitted payroll deductions amounting to Sh61.7million and Sh114.4million in staff gratuities are also pending.

At the same time, fees from students, both regular and self-sponsored, which is the biggest component of internally generated funds, has dropped drastically in the last four years.

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