UoN council directs Prof Kiama to proceed on leave again

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama.

University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The University of Nairobi (UoN) council has directed the institution’s Vice-Chancellor Stephen Kiama to proceed on leave again, hardly a month since he returned to office.

In what appears to be an escalation of boardroom wars, the fresh twist lifts the lid on the simmering conflict between the council and the man at the helm.

“…You are still deemed to be on the said leave and thus, you must not discharge the duties of the vice-chancellor with effect from September 25, 2023 until your leave lapses,” the council said in a letter.

According to the council, it had previously granted Prof Kiama permission to proceed on a six-month leave pending the end of his contract, only for him to return to office on September 1.

He publicly announced his return on social media, where he posted on X (formerly Twitter): "Well rested and rejuvenated. Back to work!" But the council faults his motive, terming it unacceptable.

“Your letter referenced under the rubric, ‘notice of resumption of duty’, that was addressed and delivered to the chair of council on 1.09.2023, at about 5pm, when you had already spent the day visiting campuses and discharging duties in the VC’s office, without prior variation/cancellation of your six-month leave by the council was unprocedural, untenable and not acceptable to the council,” UoN Council Chairperson Amukowa Anangwe said.

When Prof Kiama applied for the six-month leave before the Salaries and Remuneration Commission on July 18, 2023, he said he needed to exhaust all of his accrued leave days before his contract expired. Granted, he began his leave on August 1 only to reappear a month later.

His return before the lapse of the period stirred confusion in the institution, with a section of the teaching staff demanding clarity on the leadership.

At the time of proceeding on vacation, Prof Kiama said he had never taken leave since assuming office on January 20, 2020, owing to his “busy schedule”.

With the government keen on taming graft in state institutions, Head of Public Service Felix Koskei had last week asked state officials to proceed on leave, warning that only 15 accrued leave days would be carried over to the next financial year.

Consequently, in the letter dated September 22, and copied to the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service Felix Koskei, UoN chancellor, and the Ministry of Education, the university council directs Prof Kiama to remain on leave until the lapse of his days.

“Furthermore, your attention is drawn to the directive by the chief of staff and head of public service on 21.09.2023 that requires all officers with accumulated leave days to proceed on leave immediately,” the council said.

"This directive inevitably conflates with the council resolution of 31.07.2023 and, whose concurrence effect is to require you to comply with both until your accumulated leave of 161 days is exhausted."