Intimidation still order of the day at University of Nairobi

Intimidation still order of the day at University of Nairobi

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University of Nairobi vice chancellor Peter Mbithi has continued to bring down the once towering academic giant in less than four years without any decorum or common decency  since he took  over the mantle.

This is largely due to his endemic corruption, intimidation, wanton plunder of public resources, abuse of office, poor governance, and lone ranger style of management and his know-it-all superman attitude and sheer arrogance, greed and worship of raw power never seen before. The Auditor General Edward Ouko has been sucked into the never ending woes and intrigues at the premier university. Ouko had carried out a special audit ostensibly to clear the embattled vice chancellor of any blame though it was clear to all and sundry that Mbithi was the culprit in the run-down of the institution to the point of insolvency bringing the office of the Auditor General into integrity issues.

As a testimony to how corruption has entrenched itself and reared its ugly head at the distinguished institution, a source is privy to Isaac Meroka Mbeche’s confession when accosted by one of his kinsmen why they do not want the council appointed for the university.

Prof Mbeche was candid and forthright that the incoming council will not be like the Idle Farah led council which was “very friendly”. Mbeche averred that signs have shown that the Timothy Kiruhi led council will likely want a transparent account of what was happening in the institution at all times and thus prevent them from ‘eating’.

Time and again reports have emerged of the never ending grand corruption at the premier university by the vice chancellor flanked by the inept University of Nairobi council under the tutelage of Farah, the former Mbithi’s student at the Department of Veterinary Sciences, Kabete ya Ng’ombe and with the blessings and  patronage of Vijoo Rattansi. Winking helplessly is the highly intimidated staff and students as the University of Nairobitop management now and then offer a helping hand overtly or covertly, senselessly and without any shade of decorum  who then become beneficiaries of Lazarus like corruption proceeds in form of weekend allowances, employment of their kith and kin and promise of renewal of their contracts through Mbithi’s  support.

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 The aftermath of all this is a gullible multitude that has been intimidated to directionless perfect Pavlov syndrome conditioned followers. Back to the Auditor General’s wading and offering a helping hand,  the Auditor General nevertheless gave a wide berth on the glaring grand corruption and abuse of office commissions and omissions and poor governance superintend and dwindling fortunes of the University of Nairobi. The publication of the Auditor General’s report which was done without scratch even at  the surface of the many ills bedeviling the premier university, shows that things have gotten blinker and murkier.

Now, almost a year after the infamous Auditor’s General report,  who a mole at the finance department  intimidated to our source was coordinated by Prof Mbeche whose contacts at the Auditor General’s office  are his former students at Lower Kabete school of business offering a helping hand, is none other than the celebrated master of documents manipulator, Peter Businei, the most colourless finance officer the University of Nairobi has ever had cannot pay staff salaries. The financial scandals and woes are billowing aggressively across the once prestigious university and now threatening the future of the poor hard working staffs who are now convinced their future is bleak and doomed under their own eyes, ears and noses. All these are happening, thanks to the courtesy of a corrupt judiciary wing  spiked now and then by the Attorney General Githu Muigai’s legal opinions which have been the only stumbling block for the appointment of the governing council which Mbithi detests so much that it will unearth his misdemenour. Ouko had concluded in his report that there were no cases of abuse of office in hiring staff at the University of Nairobi, which is to the contrary of the underlying facts on the ground.

The Auditor General does not only audit books of accounts but also is responsible for auditing practices and procedures. It is inconceivable how Ouko missed to notice that Mbithi had dismantled all governing structures in the university and concentrated all powers unto himself. He started by ensuring that all expenditure above Sh100,000 can only be sunctioned and approved by himself in the entire university whose students population is in the upwards of 90,000 and  a workforce of about 7,000. What is now happening at the University of Nairobi is pathetic which is in total disarray. Mbithi has literally killed offices of the principals of colleges and the finance department and has reduced them to mere cowrie shells. The six colleges which were created way back in 1985 through statutes have fully fledged finance functions that include college bursars and audit section and have own bank accounts. Mbithi has taken over the running of these colleges’ financial functions at the detriment of those in charge of them as principals.

Many staffs at the University of Nairobi are so demoralised that any payments be it refunds, research grants, medical expenses, travel, name it and have to be sanctioned by Mbithi alone. Soon after mbithi took over the stewardship of the university, he borrowed funds in the colleges’ accounts on the pretext that he would refund after module II collections to pay the salaries. The refunds are upto today yet to be made. This followed the dipping of Mbithi’s long hand into the research grant account, whose management is provided for through a research policy which is agreed upon by the university and the body granting research funds. The research grants policy forbids the use of these funds for any other use other than the specified budget item in the MoU. Only research related activities are covered but paying of salaries is not factored in the research grants.

The University of Nairobi receives between 10 to 15pc of research grants as administrative expenses. Mbithi borrowed the research grant funds against the agreed policy. Most research activities have ground to a halt as Mbithi can not release the funds to researchers to conduct research work. This is now threatening the funding and release of research funds by the donors yet the Auditor General looked the other way as he got himself entagled in the University of Nairobi web. Staff at the university complain that Mbithi releases payments to only those he has favour with and keeps other payments under lock and key at his pleasure.

Our mole at the finance department confided  in us how Mbithi and his inner core have invented innovative ways to siphon money from the University of Nairobi even when the university clinic is running without the essential medicine and other life saving supplies. “Mbithi cannot refund staff medical expenses but extends such refunds to his cronies with ease. Remittances’ to banks against staff loans are never effected thus leaving staff embarrassed and risking auction of their assets let alone risking their poor rating by Credit Reference Bureau with attendant consequences that risks their future career advancements, a don who did want to be named lamented bitterly. The remittances’ of salary deductions to the Chuna Sacco go months in and out any so that staff are unable to borrow loans from their Sacco due to lack of funds. Mbithi has gone months without remitting pension deductions of not only the 10pc employee contribution deducted from  their salary, the 20pc employer contributions to employee pension is never paid and the Retirement Benefit Authority has threatened to take over the running of the pension scheme as Mbithi has been running the pension scheme like a department in his office. The staff NHIF deductions are never remitted thus staff cannot be extended the NHIF benefits when sick and name it, the list of woes is long and depressing.

Mbithi is now running the University of Nairobi in perfect conformity with the narrative by Geogre Owell novel the Animal Farm. A source at the university has confided that even when the university is reeling under the brink of bankruptcy while the few selected ones are living in opulence and extravagance. Our source confided that the money is being siphoned through ad hoc committees, which include the ISO committee, Budget Committee, Master Plan Committee, Assets Valuation Committee, Website committee, Central Corruption Prevention Committee (its rightful name Central Corruption Protection Commandos), College Corruption Prevention Committee, Procurement Committee, Tender Committee and  Performance Contract Committee being the most coveted and dreaded. The list goes on and on. Appointment into the membership of these committees is done by none other than  Mbithi himself  and its packed with his tribesmen, women and his  own sidekicks, errand boys and girls and secret service agents. To curb wanton corruption wastage of public funds, the Salaries and Remuneration Committee  has published guidelines to be followed in remuneration of the ad hoc committees. Those who serve in those committees receive a maximum token of Sh5,000 from  the chairman per sitting and not more than five sittings. However, Mbithi, Mbeche, Businnei and the six college principals have been flouting SRC guideline with ease and impunity. The committees have been siphoning huge sums of money which is never audited and is only processed by only few selected staff.

A source confided  that the sheer greed is shocking, For instance, Businnei and his team go to present their budgets outside the university, they award themselves up to Sh50,000 per sitting, a source divulged, “yet what they are doing is part of their duty and during normal working hours”. The performance contracting committee which Mbithi ostensibly moved to operate from the vice chancellor’s office rather than in the deputy vice chancellor’s office as was the case when Mbithi served as the deputy vice chancellor Administration and Finance is the most dreaded one and swims in cash. The committee is headed by Mbithi’s shadow head and holds retreats in posh hotels in the pretext that they are compiling work plans and ‘cooking’ the performance index to score high, confided a member of this committee in strict confidence. The committee is headed by a Mr Musyoka for whom  Mbithi has secretly and quietly created a position of Deputy Registrar which is equivalent to that of an associate professor. The position was created out of the existing establishment without the council as should been the case.  Musyoka as the only applicant was secretly scheduled to be interviewed and issued an appointment letter within 24 hours as is customary for Mbithi’s favourites whereas the other lesser mortals are left languishing ever waiting for the appointment letters but  whose files  are eventually kept under lock and key in Mbithi’s office and only processed when they pay Herodias homage to him on his 18th floor in Nairobi Towers which is only accessible to the privileged few, complained a senior member of the University of Nairobi management on strict confidentiality.

The ad doc committee members have been siphoning huge sums of money and the auditors never notice the irregular payments  where documents are immediately retrieved by a few trusted and selected Mbithi lieutenants  who destroy them to conceal  any trail,  narrated a staffer well versed with the daily happenings at the Finance Department. The university master plan committee is chaired by none other than the principal of the College of Architecture and Engineering Peter Ngau  while other members are Sammy Mulei (survey), SM Musyoka  (architect), Charles Nzioki (planning). To begin with, the masterplan committee which is mandated to draw the master plan for the university structures, ironically,  it’s team members belong to Mbithi’s inner core strategists who are not known to have not carried out any meaningful professional  distinguished masterplans other than the shallow disjointed incoherent master plans  presented to students in lecture halls.

 Mbithi, nevertheless, appoints members of the committee in line with the procurement regulations and preocedures, even though those serving in the committee ends up being paid professional fees disguised as honoraria running into millions of shillings. It is also a well known secret in those committees that the team leader fees is usually doubled, the double which is to accommodate Mbithi’s share of the ‘loot’ a member of the committee well versed with the mondus operandi in these committees stated. The committee headed by Nick Nzioki is responsible for undertaking the valuation of assets for the university and it is also appointed through the same dubious process with total the breach of procurement regulations. The procurement manager Joseph Mokaya is a culprit in the crime and also gets his fare share of the loot to facilitate the irregular award of the consultancy and a valuable asset in the processing of the payments. The amount of money siphoned through these phony contracts runs into hundreds of millions of shillings and part of it comes goes to oil the pockets of those who keep Mbithi in office through the many court orders and legal opinions,  mourned   a senior member of Mbithi’s inner core cabinet  who is not happy with the goings-on and believes that the die is cast and Mbithi’s exit at the helm is imminent.

The mega corruption taking place since Mbithi took over the reins of the university, even a blind person can smell it even if can not see it physically. The mood at the premier university is very sullen as most staff are not sure of what will happen next. Most staff  we talked to have resigned to fate but have been wondering why the government has allowed the situation to deteriorate that much without intervention. The yet to be concluded is the controversial 2013-17 CBA arrears. The CBA arrears  to a hundred of staff who had retired between 2013-2017 suffered calamity that they retired before the arrears were paid out  and when the arrears were belatedly paid,  they suffered the 10pc pension contribution deductions of their contributions. This was deducted from their paycheck and the same retained by the university and never remitted to the pension scheme.  The  university never remitted the 20pc employer pension contribution by the sponsor.

The staff are yet to receive the reconciliation of the arrears as had earlier agreed between the unions and Mbeche on September 4 2017.

The collapse of the governance structures at the University of Nairobi to one man show has left many staff suffering. Mbithi has moved the personnel office to himself and any appointment  to staff be it the general grade,  insubordinate staff, general cleaners, secretaries, technical staff, graduate assistants, tutorial fellows, lecturers, accountants which are by university statutes  mandated functions of university colleges,  Mbithi has moved all of  them to his office.

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