Salary woes hit universities as Treasury withholds cash

Students outside Moi University’s administration block in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County

Students outside Moi University’s administration block in Kesses, Uasin Gishu County, in October last year. Union officials at Moi University said the delay to release February salaries is expected to impact negatively the delivery of the learning.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Public universities are unable to pay staff due to delays by the National Treasury to release funds, precipitating a crisis in the learning institutions.

The delays to wire capitation to the 38 public universities have seen lecturers boycott classes to press for their salaries.

Some universities have been forced to negotiate with banks to enable them to settle the arrears. Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) National Deputy Secretary-General Jacob Musembi said the union will call a crisis meeting to give direction to its members.

Dr Musembi accused the government of failing to release salaries on time, warning that the union will paralyse learning should the trend continue. 

“The reason for the delay has not been communicated by the government or State Department for Higher Education and Research,” he said. 

Dr Musembi said that, despite writing to the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, there had been no reply by Wednesday evening.

Union officials at Moi University said the delay to release February salaries is expected to impact negatively the delivery of the learning. Chapter chair Richard Okero said most members are unable to meet their needs.

“About 90 per cent of the staff stay in Eldoret town, which is about 35 kilometres away, and they are finding it hard to get to work because they can’t afford to travel,” Dr Okero said.

Last week, the university’s management, through acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration, Planning and Strategy) Ambrose Kiprop notified staff about the funding delays.

“As you are aware, the university relies mainly on capitation from the National Treasury for payment of salaries. This is to notify the members of staff that the university is yet to receive funds for the payment of February salaries. We wish to thank all members of staff for [their] patience ... and give an assurance that salaries will be [paid] once capitation is disbursed from Treasury,” the March 10 memo reads in part.

In some of the institutions, like Maasai Mara University, lecturers told Nation they received their salaries last Friday. At the University of Eldoret, payments have been effected over the past two days. 

“I got my February salary yesterday [Tuesday]. Others were paid on Monday,” said a member of staff at the institution.

Families' pain

Uasu chapter secretary Philip Chebunet said the continued delay of salaries was hurting university workers and asked the Education ministry to ensure the timely release of funds. 

“Delayed capitation causes pain in families. We recommend that universities have alternative sources of funds while the ministry should ensure timely disbursement and increased capitation for the higher education sector,” said Mr Chebunet.

He asked the ministry to ensure that private universities are allocated students only after public universities are full.

At Pwani University, the lecturers have received their February salaries. The institution has about 250 lecturers.

“They received their salaries by February 1. However, we do not know where [the university] got the money. Maybe they used internal sources to be able to pay," said a lecturer.

The lecturers faulted the government for failing to submit the capitation on time.

“The issue of salaries is a major concern to us. You can imagine a professor, has to wait until the 15th of every month to get money. Most lecturers are in debt and we are wondering why the government is not releasing the capitation to universities on time,” said a don.

At Tom Mboya University in Homa Bay County, some part-time lecturers have complained about the lack of payment.

One of them expressed concern about the failure of the institution to pay him.

“Our agreement with Tom Mboya was that I teach for the whole semester, mark and submit results before claiming pay. I am yet to receive the payment for last semester but I don’t have control over the system at the institution,” he said. 

For full-time lecturers at Tom Mboya University, delayed payment of allowances is their main concern. A lecturer told Nation that they are yet to get their allowance for supervision and examination. He said the delays have been from last year. Efforts to reach acting Vice-Chancellor Charles Ocholla were fruitless as did not answer calls.

At Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri County, all lecturers were paid their February salaries

“My salary was paid in full though for the first time, they deducted the National Social Security Fund. In my institution, every member of staff was paid,” a lecturer who sought anonymity told Nation.

Reporting by Stanley Kimuge, Maureen Ongala, George Odiwour and James Murimi