Retention of retired Seku University VC Geoffrey Muluvi’s huge perks sparks uproar

Geoffrey Muluvi

Outgoing South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) Vice-Chancellor Geoffrey Muluvi at his office on March 14. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Prof Muluvi would enjoy a security allowance of Sh52,000 a month and armed security guards “because...his security is a matter of concern even in his retirement”.
  • The council awarded Prof Muluvi more benefits, including a house allowance of Sh87,925, hardship allowance of Sh60,000 and a commuter allowance of Sh75,000, all per month.
  • Other benefits are membership to a club of his choice up to a ceiling of Sh150,000 per annum, subscription fees, an office at Kitui Town Campus and an administrative officer of his choice.

The management council of the South Eastern Kenya University (Seku) has given outgoing Vice Chancellor, Prof Geoffrey Mwanza Muluvi, a farewell package that will see him enjoy the perks of his former position indefinitely.

At a time when the university is struggling to pay its teaching and non-teaching staff, the council approved a request by Prof Muluvi to retain the hefty monthly emoluments he enjoyed during his tenure despite the expiry of his contract.

It is a case that has reignited the debate on how a government employee should be paid when he or she leaves a senior position and takes up a junior one in the same institution, with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) promising to look into the matter.

According to various correspondences, the outgoing VC has negotiated a "personal to self" exit package, including responsibility, hardship, security and commuting allowances at the current rate, but he's not in office.

During his 21-month sabbatical and for the rest of his life, the VC will receive the same salary and benefits as he received during his 10 years as VC.

Personal-to-self-remuneration terms mean a special pay package - outside the government pay structure - for a civil servant who brings exceptional skills to the civil service while leaving a higher paid job in the private sector. 

By law and practice, such terms do not apply to a retiring officer. In principle, they cannot continue to enjoy the benefits of their previous job when their contract expires.

The council took the decision during its 81st extraordinary general meeting, which was held physically at the main campus - Kwa-Vonza in Kitui County - on 3 April, a month before the end of his term.

In its response, the University Council wrote to Prof Muluvi on April 6, saying it had considered his request and decided that he would be entitled to the full benefits he was receiving as vice-chancellor while on sabbatical leave.

"Upon resumption from sabbatical leave, you will assume your role as full professor of Seku and you will retain benefits including a basic salary of Sh744,078 per month, personal to yourself," reads the letter to Prof Muluvi signed by Michael Kipkirui, a council member who chaired the meeting.

The letter, seen by the Sunday Nation, further states that the former VC will enjoy ongoing security benefits defined as a security allowance of Sh52,000 per month and armed security guards as he remains a person of interest whose security is a matter of concern even after his retirement.

The Council also granted him other benefits including a house allowance of Sh87,925 per month, a hardship allowance of Sh60,000 per month and a commuting allowance of Sh75,000 per month.

Other benefits include membership of a club of his choice up to a maximum of Sh150,000 per annum, subscription fees and an office at the Kitui town campus and an administrative officer of his choice with all relevant office expenses paid by the university.

With these pension benefits, Prof Muluvi is not only the highest paid staff member at Seku, earning more than the new VC, he also enjoys higher remuneration than some of his bosses at the Ministry of Education.

The University Council doesn't have a substantive chairperson following the departure of Dr Swabah Ahmed Omar. The current members are Mr Kipkirui, Prof David Kikaya, Isaac Gitahi Thuita, Esther Ndirangu, Lydia Mwikali Kaleli and Dr Koki Muli. Mr John Nyaoko Mose and Mr Mugambi Nyaga represent the National Treasury and the Ministry of Education respectively. When contacted for comment, acting vice-chancellor Prof Francis Wachira refused to discuss the matter, but Prof Muluvi vehemently defended the council, saying it had acted within the provisions of the Employment Act.

He also denied that he attended and sat through the council meeting that decided on his exit package.

"My employer was the University Council. What they did was simply to adopt the exit package as defined in my terms and conditions of service and therefore there is nothing wrong," Prof Muluvi told the Sunday Nation on phone.

He argued that the terms and conditions of his employment in 2013 dictated that he should be given such perks at the end of his contract.

The council's decision is curious because it adopted the terms and conditions of service set by the Inter Public Universities Councils' Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) in 2013, which were declared null and void by both the SRC and the Public Service Commission (PSC).

It also contravenes the advice given by the SRC, specifically in relation to Prof Muluvi's retirement package, in an advice sought by the University Council last year.

On 17 April 2022, Mr Kipkirui wrote to the SRC seeking advice on how Prof Muluvi should be remunerated upon his return to the university as a lecturer.

In a letter dated 17 May 2022, SRC secretary Anne Gitau advised that Prof Muluvi's job was contractual and he could not continue to enjoy the salary and benefits of an expired contract.

"The commission has considered your request and clarifies that when a contract of a public officer is terminated or expires, the terms and conditions of that contract cease to apply. This is in line with the commission's advice on the matter to the Head of the Public Service vide letter Ref. No. SRC/TS/UG/3/7 VOL II (57) dated 7 August 2020," SRC's letter to Prof Muluvi reads.

Contacted for comment, SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich confirmed that the commission was looking into the matter. 

"The SRC has been made aware of the letter regarding a sabbatical leave request for the former Seku vice-chancellor and the commission is reviewing the matter and will respond formally next week," Ms Mengich said.

The matter is also being investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to recover monies illegally paid to him since he left office in May this year.

EACC Lower Eastern Regional Manager Japheth Baithalu confirmed that they were investigating possible abuse of office by both Prof Muluvi and the council, and whether members overlooked the law to corruptly confer unearned benefits on him.

Constantine Wasonga, secretary general of the Universities Academic Staff Union, said the Seku council's decision was questionable and called on the authorities to act swiftly and charge the council members for the lost funds.

"Prof Muluvi was against better remuneration for lecturers when he was VC. He should either abide by the law and accept the salaries given to lecturers or leave the university. As Uasu, we insist (that) the government cracks the whip," said Dr Wasonga.

The Uasu boss said the absence of a chancellor at Seku, a chairperson of the university council, had weakened the governance structure and created leadership gaps at the institution that were being abused by the VC.

In 2015, the then Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua issued a directive to all Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries to ensure that Chief Executive Officers of State Enterprises who retire and choose to serve the same institutions in other capacities do not retain the same perks.

"Specifically, staff in public universities who retire as CEOs and choose to resume teaching duties at the end of their tenure should be required to adopt the perks associated with their newly assigned lower grades," Mr Kinyua's circular, dated May 16, 2015, reads. 

Mr Kinyua pointed out that CEOs who retain the perks of their former administrative positions create unnecessary power plays and competition with their successors, while being unsustainable for the institutions concerned.

In 2016, the PSC issued a circular reviewing the terms and conditions of service of public universities, pointing out that the IPUCCF's mandate doesn't include setting their salaries and that its membership includes vice-chancellors, who therefore cannot set their own remuneration.

"The IPUCCF draws part of its membership from university managers whose purported approval of their own terms and conditions of service amounts to a conflict of interest. The review and determination of terms and conditions is the mandate of the Ministry, the State Enterprises Advisory Committee in conjunction with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission," reads the PSC circular dated 25 October 2016.

The scandal comes barely a month after President William Ruto spoke of a rampant vice in government where senior managers award themselves higher salaries than those set by the SRC.  

Speaking during the 8th Devolution Conference in Uasin Gishu County, President Ruto wondered why some government employees were earning higher salaries than his Sh1.4 million salary package, noting that public universities were among the culprits.