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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 16 November 2014

UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI VC SLOT APPOINTMENT HEADED TO COURT

The controversy surrounding the recruitment of vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi is now headed to corridors of justice with claims the right procedure was not followed and should begin anew. 
This is happening as Charles Mukhwaya, the secretary general of the Kenya Universities Staff Union since its formation years back is a marked man. The union is expected to articulate the rights of workers and more so, the terms and conditions of employment of the unionisable employees but this has never been the case.
But what surprises many is that Mukhwaya has been caught in vice- chancellor George Magoha’s succession saga at University of Nairobi. He is said to be fronting for Peter Mbithi to take over. However, a section at the prestigious institution of learning have sworn to block Prof Mbithi’s appointment by moving to court on grounds of morality. Mbithi, the current vice-chancellor academic and finance was allegedly implicated in a sexual harassment case involving a close family member.
Workers say they have continued to suffer under Dr Mukhwaya’s watch and now a rebel group wants him and  team out.
For years, the universities have always paid workers a basic salary below the minimum wage. The secretary general has over the years negotiated and signed CBA’s that give workers a basic wage below statutory requirements. This is in total disregard of the Labour Institutions Act 2007, Laws of Kenya. Mukhwaya is known to work with Mbithi for noncompliance of legal Notice No 70 of 2012 and legal Notice No197 of 2013 despite a notice of intended prosecution of August 2014 by the ministry of Labour in April 2014 and a subsequent reminder in August 2014.
It is imperative to note that three quarters of the employees at universities sign a one-year contract contrary to the standing law. Technologists are poorly remunerated and are not supplied with the necessary protective gear in their areas of work. Further, promotion is not done as per the CBA.
There is rampant discrimination perpetuated by the management under his watch. When a member of staff dies, the management does not provide transport, it is said. But when senior managers lose their relatives, all buses are released for burial.
Mukhwaya’s decision to venture into the VC recruitment saga has rubbed a section of members the wrong way. Are any of the candidates for the position of VC paid-up members of his union to warrant union’s protection?
It is claimed he is on Mbithi’s payroll. A few weeks ago, Mukhwaya was spotted at Co-operative Bank University Way executive unit with an ally of the DVC. After waiting, a cheque was cleared and Mukhwana was given Sh150,000.
That all is not well for Mbithi at UoN is no secret. Members of staff and students always complain that he is ever crafty when dealing with the welfare of workers. When Kusu signed the last CBA, Mbithi crafted a formula that was used by all universities to deny workers a reasonable amount of money. This resulted in a strike.
Mbithi being the chair of the public universities negotiations forum has over the years made sure that workers are paid a basic salary that is below minimum wage. It is argued that if he can disregard the law with impunity as the DVC, he will be worse if elevated to the position of VC.
Mbithi is also accused of being corrupt and brutal. He is also accused of firing employees on flimsy grounds without giving one a chance to defend himself.
Apart from Mbithi, others shortlisted for the position to be picked by education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi are Agnes Mwang’ombe who scored 77.3pc, Isaac Mbeche 68pc and Lucy Irungu scored 67.6pc. Mbithi was ranked top among the four candidates interviewed scoring 83.5pc.
The interviewing panel chaired by Idle Farah recommended that the names of Mbithi, Prof Mwangombe and Prof Mbeche be forwarded to Education cabinet secretary Prof Kaimenyi for appointment.