Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno has been , Leah Achando Mbira, Sh1.5 million as work injury benefits following an accident she was involved in while on official duty.
According to Benjamin Otsiulah, appearing for Mbira, Otieno who is expected in court on August 21, this year, is being held individually liable as he had allegedly delayed and refused to settle the claim, a matter that is both unconstitutional and contrary to labour and employment laws of Kenya.
The MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno, according to the advocate, had refused to settle and compensate the driver as per the provisions of the work injury benefits Act No 13 of 2007 despite the intervention by the office of the ombudsman and the directorate of occupational safety and health services.
Meanwhile, a major stand-off has erupted between Otieno and a professor who was recently hired by the university. Otieno is alleged to have negated on the terms of employment spelt out in the letter of appointment handed to Charles Chunge, the executive dean, School of Medicine.
He claims Otieno has downgraded him from a professor to a doctor without regard to the appointments and promotions committee of university council that appointed him on July 27 2015.
The standoff had led to aborting of a meeting scheduled to take place between Otieno, Chunge and top management officials which was expected to take place on June 9 at the VC’s boardroom. Sources have divulged it was Chunge who declined to attend the meeting allegedly because he was not served with its agenda in advance.
Chunge hasquestioned the motive behind Otieno’s decision to downgrade him and even going further by instructing that he resubmits to him his curriculum vitae. In a memo dated June 4 to Chunge, Otieno instructs, “Please send me urgently a copy of your latest CV and copies of all testimonials regarding your employment in academia from lecturer to highest grade held elsewhere other than Mmust.”
In a quick rejoinder, Chunge pens, “I found this in my mailbox although addressed to a Dr Chunge. Although it does not bear my rightful official contractual designation in Mmust, I assumed that it is intended for me”.
He adds: “By copy of this letter to the registrar, I am kindly requesting him to furnish you with my file so that you can access the information you seek. Any other information was circulated during my interview and I am already employed on contract for five years. Any review of my contract should not be done midstream but at its expiry.”
Chunge was referring to the letter of appointment of July 7 2015 and signed by none other than the vice chancellor himself to the post of executive dean School of Medicine on a five-year contract. The letter gave Chunge a monthly salary of Sh196,235 plus fringe benefits which included Sh70,889 house allowance, Sh15,000 responsibility allowance, Sh16,000 entertainment allowance, Sh5,000 office telephone allowance, Sh17,500 car allowance, Sh46,000 non-practicing allowance, Sh30,000 extraneous allowance and Sh5,000 risk allowance.
Reports emerging from the university indicate that following the standoff, the two professors are no longer at peace, with Chunge threatening to move to court, that is, if the senate and university council will not intervene any soon than later.
Last week, MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno travelled to Mombasa for a retreat with members of the university council recently appointed by the government. He is reported to have travelled with acting registrar Noah Wafula and assistant registrar Immaculate Ayodo.
The members included Jeremy Bundi, chair, Samson Muchelule, Don Remmy Ogallo, Joyce Nderitu, Sirma-Koros Kosiom and Frank ole Kimbelekenya.
A source said that this time round, Otieno may have found his match in the new council members unlike the previous once whom he had reportedly compromised, hence he may face charges of criminal nature following extensive interrogation he has had with Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
Sources confided that once the sleuths complete their investigations and analyse evidence available, he may probably face cases touching on flouting of employment rules, abuse of office, corruption, giving false and misleading information and double engagement. And according to EACC western regional headquarters regional manager, Kisumu, Benson Murei, Otieno was grilled for several hours on reports, among other things, misappropriation of about Sh10 million. Murei talked to the press outside their Jubilee Building.
Murei told journalists the vice chancellor may likely face other charges such as irregularly awarding himself house allowances, appointing and promoting staff based on nepotism as well as disregarding staff and students’ leadership and that he stood accused of making critical management decisions disregarding the team work spirit. But he politely declined to field more questions informing members of the Fourth Estate that his team of sleuths was carrying out further investigations before the file can now be forwarded to Nairobi for action.
Prof Otieno’s saga reminds one of a proverbial saying, ‘the hunter being hunted’. As you step into the main gate of Mmust, you encounter a glaring notice which announces, “You are now entering a high integrity zone. Report any form of corruption via our website or corruption gripe boxes.” The notice was put out early 2014 by none other than Otieno immediately after taking over from his predecessor Barasa Wangila.
Later, he addressed Mmust fraternity at the Graduation Square where he publicly announced he had come to rescue the university from the grip of thieves who had plundered it. And to prove that he was serious in word and deed, the first victims to be summoned to his office for questioning were none other than Prof Wangila and his trusted former lieutenants whom he grilled over alleged misappropriation of funds but reportedly was unable to prove the allegations.
It has been alleged that it was out of that frustration that professor of civil engineering aggressively embarked on what came to be seen by many as witchhunt, which todate has seen senior staff including lecturers exiting the first institution of higher learning in Western province, either voluntarily or being axed on drummed up accusations.
A source within the Mmust fraternity told this reporter that the EACC action was laudable since it had led to several union officials as well as some of the senior employees volunteering to record statements which reportedly may have implicated the MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno.
According to a reliable source, Kusu secretary Ronald Wamalwa may have recorded a kind of damning report that stated, among other things, that one of their union problems with the MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno was going beyond the norm by irregularly and illegally advertising some of the most senior positions on private websites without featuring the same on Mmust website or daily newspapers of national circulation to reflect transparency and accountability.
He had further reportedly told the sleuths that MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno had even advised applicants to channel their applications through e-mails of individuals at the University. Back at the EACC Kisumu office where Otieno was shown copies of his CV and asked to explain some discrepancies, for instance, the exact date he took over as vice chancellor at Mmust.
In one of the CVs from the office of cabinet secretary, it is indicated it was December 1 2013. The other CV indicated December 5 2013 as the date he took over. And yet another CV indicated he took over in February 2014. He was also reportedly asked to shed light on a report that he was interviewed by the university council for the post of professor on October 24 2014 and thereafter appointed a full professor.
The sleuths were interested in the discrepancies since he had been appointed MMUST Vice chancellor Fredrick Otieno on the basis that he was already a full professor, then it turned out later that he is being interviewed to become full professor again, which was given to him three months later according to the announcement he reportedly made to the Senate on January 28 2015.
Other issues touched on his alleged dual citizenship of both South African (ID is RSA 56102059089) and Kenyan (ID 0679446). He was also to shed light on the plum salary and other fringe allowances and whether they were in line with the Salary Review Commission for public universities and also whether the monthly risk allowance of Sh120,000 was a norm in all public universities which were also enjoyed by his predecessors, Everett Standa and Barasa Wangila.