Kenyatta University vice chancellor Olive Mugenda is under pressure to respect the Universities Act 2012 and retire after serving the university for two terms as stipulated in the Act.
Mugenda joined the university as a tutorial fellow in 1981 and rose through the ranks to first become the deputy vice chancellor for Finance and Planning and in 2006, when the position of vice chancellor at the university was advertised, she applied and beat three other applicants, and became the first Kenyan woman to hold the position, in April 2006.
However, her re-appointment in March 2011 was controversial after the university senate failed to advertise the position for competitive recruitment forcing Wilfrida Itolongo, Muma Solomon, Elena Korir, Martha MIayandazi and Fred Obare to go to court to challenge her appointment but Justice George Odunga said that there was nothing wrong with the failure of former president Mwai Kibaki to gazette the appointment of Prof Mugenda and declared that she was in office legally.
Investigations reveal that six months before her first term expired, she wrote to the university council requesting for extension of her contract and the council evaluated her performance and renewed her contract as per Section 17 (5) which is now set to expire in March next year.
Sources allege that to have her contract renewed, Mugenda lobbied and parted with colossal amounts of money and had also to reach out to then Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the cabinet ambassador Francis Muthaura who used his power and influence to have her contract renewed though her performance in the first term was seen as below expectations. Then Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi also played a crucial role in her reappointment.
But what is now worrying is that Mugenda is not ready to call it quits as she plans to hang onto the job for a possible third term which is against the Universities Act 2012
The Act in Article 39. (1) says: “The vice-chancellor of a university shall be appointed- (a) in the case of a public university, competitively by the cabinet secretary on the recommendation of the council; and (3) says the vice-chancellor of a public university shall hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for a further term of five years.
We have information that Mugenda’s gameplan started with the appointment of the KU chancellor Benson Waeregi ignoring recommendation from Education cabinet secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.
Sources say Mugenda lobbied for a friendly chancellor Waeregi to help her have her contract renewed for the second time. His appointment was contained in the Kenya Gazette notice No 9392 dated July 4 2013 and is to serve for five years.
She is also said to be friendly to the KU council chairman Ratemo Michieka who, sources say, has been using his position to protect her.
We have information that the deal to have Waeregi appointed was brokered by Francis Kimemia who was by that time very close to Mugenda and Kimemia by virtue of being head of civil service and secretary to the cabinet ignored Kaimenyi’s advice and convinced Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint him.
When the news of her refusal to call it quits leaked, Kenyans of all walks of life reacted angrily with others saying that Mugenda must not be allowed to join the club of African despots like Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe or opposition leaders who have refused to retire like Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe and Kissa Besigye of Uganda. Is Mugenda plotting to join the likes of Grace Kaindi and Kalpan Rawal who have moved to courts upon expiry of their terms?
What is now worrying Kenyans is that whereas Mugenda is a beneficiary of competitive recruitment, it is shocking and worrying that she is now failing to respect the same and to give others an opportunity to serve in the same capacity as VC.
Those who have worked closely with Mugenda claim she has let down the institution and although there are so many issues and mismanagement allegations some of which have been proven, she uses her influence to have media “kill” such stories. It is important to note that the Nation Media Group has never and will never publish or broadcast any scam on KU simply because Mugenda sits on NMG board.
It is evident that Nation can only publish a positive story on KU. At one time a Nation reporter wanted to publish a story on a scam on KU gate project and a proposed supermarket project and almost got fired when Mugenda reported the matter. Her acceptance to sit at the NMG board was just to gag the Nation and scare other media houses.
Mugenda must make a bold move and follow the footsteps of former United States International University Africa VC Freida Brown who was the owner of Usiu but obeyed law and stepped down as the VC.
Pressure is now on her to also copy former University of Nairobi VC George Magoha who retired at the expiry of his second term and also Egerton University VC James Tuitoek who has also retired.
Kenyans now say she must respect a circular by Muthaura dated November 23 2010 addressed to all ministers, assistant ministers, the AG, permanent secretaries and to the Controller and Auditor General (Ref. OP/CAB.9/1A) which outlined the procedure for reappointment of service chief executive officers in state corporations.
Although Mugenda has been bragging that she initiated several development projects at KU, academic stakeholders have, however, dismissed her saying construction of hospital, morgue and Uni-City is not academic excellence and that it is highly suspected that those many construction projects awarded to the Chinese companies might just be avenues to make money through hefty kickbacks.
Another scam that is said to have rocked her tenure is a land KU Sacco purchased in Ruai. Mugenda is alleged to be a director of the selling company whereby staff and Sacco members lost money in the deal.
The big question now is why Mugenda has been purchasing university properties haphazardly, who makes those decisions and who pockets the kickbacks? It is said that KU lost millions of shillings in the North Coast Beach Hotel.
Investigations reveal that North Coast Beach Hotel is located about 27 kilometres North of Mombasa along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway on Kikambala Beach Area, Bahari constituency, Kilifi.
The hotel was previously operating as Le Soleil Beach Club and changed ownership in March 2009. It is wholly owned and managed by Kenyatta University which has invested handsomely in major refurbishments and renovations but unfortunately, it has not picked up.
Prof Mugenda is known to play her game using her connections to who is who in the government and has come out to borrow heavily from her predecessor George Eshiwani. Those who worked with Eshiwani closely say that Mugenda has adopted his style.
During his tenure at KU, Eshiwani used his influence to have then president Daniel Moi visit KU at will. It is worth noting that Moi used KU visits to make major political announcements. It was the same thing Mugenda did with Kibaki when she hurriedly hosted him through the influence of Kimemia and Muthaura. That is how Eshiwani became more powerful than Moi’s ministers and it is what Mugenda is trying to do.
Others say apart from Mugenda and Eshiwani, UoN’s Magoha also hurriedly invited Uhuru Kenyatta to commission an incomplete University of Nairobi Towers and ended up lobbying for his extension so that he can finish up the project but unfortunately, State House stuck with the Universities Act 2012 that provides only for two terms of five years each for the VCs who are the universities CEOs.
We have also gathered that Mugenda has created an impression that she cannot proceed on leave pending retirement and has created a crisis by ensuring that there is no new VC to hand over to.
However, the going has been tough for Mugenda after she realised that Uhuru is difficult to manipulate and although she has been sending emissaries to State House, sources say Uhuru has declined to extend her term.
To show how angrily Kenyans have reacted to Mugenda’s refusal to hand over the instruments of power, Kenyans took to the social media platform Kenyans on Twitter (kot) and with the hash tag #sendMugendaHome, by last week, it had broken the record with 1.2 million Kenyans petitioning the KU council to advertise her position.
On #sendMugendaHome hash tag, one Abraham Kiplagat wrote “This tabia of getting to the end of your term then refusing to leave office. You see Kagame of Rwanda and Mugenda of KU, same, no difference. Polycap Hinga wrote “senior judges won’t retire, Kaindi won’t retire, Kaplan won’t retire, and now Mugenda refuses to retire”. Cofek wrote “We must encourage a culture in which public officers, even great performers, agree to leave office when the set time comes. #SendMugendaHome” while Generali Osumo Jnr wrote “Building a Unicity isn’t a priority while students are languishing in bedbugs and leaking roofs hostels”. Munene wrote Yes I agree @C_NyaKundiH KU is turning into a modern Zimbambwe #SendMugendaHome”.
We have also discovered that during her tenure at KU, many members of teaching and non-teaching staff resigned to join other universities leaving KU an empty shell. Mugenda is to blame for this unprecedented turnover and quality will be highly compromised.
It is believed that immediate former chancellor Onesmus Mutungi was removed from office for his close association with the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
His removal was instigated by Mugenda in a bid to have Wairegi back. But the big question is; can KU have both the chancellor and the vice-chancellor coming from the same community? We have also gathered that in order to control the student’s body and with Kenyatta University Students Association elections fast approaching, Mugenda has already identified two medicine students to succeed Tom Mboya and Fred Kiriga as President and Secretary General respectively. She prefers students from the School of Health Sciences since they are busy throughout and have no time to agitate for what she calls ‘endless illegitimate students’ demands’.
Already names are being flouted as her possible replacement in acting capacity awaiting a competitive recruitment process. The names mentioned are Prof. John Okumu (Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), Prof. Godfrey Msa Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Development), Prof. P.K. Wainaina Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) and Prof Frederick Q. Grenevir of the Department of Education Management, Policy & Curriculum Studies.
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