The recently appointed council of the University of Nairobi headed by the 81-year-old Julia Ojiambo would not only need the guidance, counseling and wisdom of the chairperson who many presume was picked among many other qualified candidates because of her wit to navigate the troubled and controversy courting and ridden premier university.
But those in the know and well versed with the happenings divulge to us that the divine intervention may bear more fruits than relying on human wisdom and tact. Already the new council knowingly or unknowingly delivered itself on the hands of vice-chancellor Peter Mbithi, an expert in intrigues and master strategist.
Stakeholders are alarmed even before the ink that appointed the council had dried, they are already compromised. Now, the staff is not only bewildered but also disappointed that the council they all enthusiastically looked upon as the savior of the institution and their individual problems has been exasperatedly hijacked at the slightest provocation.
What is trending like bushfire is why the council considered by creating more top management positions would reverse the fortunes of an institution that is riddled with corruption, poor governance, abuse of office, wastage of public resources both monetary and human resources, nepotism, tribalism and at the brink of bankruptcy.
Many dons we talked to reckon that the council though has on the outset seem to have been outwitted they can still redeem themselves as the old adage goes experience is the best teacher. The skeptics and optimists do concur one thing that it will be a herculean task for the council is to set its agenda as any such attempt will be met not only with friction but hostility from Mbithi and his strategists.
Dons and staff are rearing to go and cooperate with the council to recover the lost ground and move the university from ashes to grace to greater heights. Many dons contend that there is no so great a sacrifice they will not undertake to resuscitate the diminishing pearl many have so worked hard to protect and preserve its image against all odds and whose careers many depend as a second home.
The new council needs to know, the ills that have plunged and continues to stalk the university is perpetuated with vengeance of Prof Mbithi and grand motherly demeanour chancellor Vijoo Ratanssi, who resonates quite well with Mbithi. A don chuckled that between the two it is a case of scratch my back I scratch yours.
As the new council may soon learn through wit, lack of strict monetary and fiscal discipline at the UoN is one of the main challenges bedeviling the UoN which has plunged the institution into insolvency as without money the institution’s foundations are resting on quicksand. The council will soon discern that there is high level of wastage coupled with the roller coaster attitude of the top management. As a result, the morale is dead across the entire university. The council out to be aware that the university operated in auto pilot mode for the better part of the almost four years Mbithi has strundled the institution.
The council must demand accountability beyond the audited accounts of the UoN which are largely doctored to paint a healthy institution whereas indeed the correct prognosis the “patient” is under drip in the intensive care unit, severely emaciated, dehydrated, anemic and the “patient” is at the brink of death. The malaise rears its ugly head at the staff University Health Services clinic with no drugs, except pain killers. Worse still major healthcare facilities in the country no longer admit staff patients from the UoN due to failure to payf bills.
UoN staff enjoy a noncontributory health services but in real sense, management has ensured it only only appears on paper. In the unions collective bargaining agreements, staff are forced to pay from their pockets for medical services wherever they attend medical hospitals and submit claims for reimbursements. Today, they are holding harambees to bail out one of their own.
The current predicament is that colleges have been cleaned bare. Borrowing of funds from colleges is something that has never happened in the history of the university as the flow of funds have always been from central finance to colleges. The staff refunds date back to 2016 running into hundreds of millions.
The council must interrogate the correct positions. Medical refunds have become lucrative way of making cash by college bursars who demand kickbacks to release trickle payments.
As if this is not bad enough staff are owed huge amounts in form of unpaid daytrip allowances. There is state of hopelessness across the entire university as Mbithi has concentrated all powers to himself and makes all decisions. The new council should be alive to the calling that that staff are crying for the deliverance from the tyranny and high handedness.
The council will be hoodwinked that the past council had sanctioned this and that whereas in the real sense for the last two years there has never been no council. The Ojiambo council must out of necessity and good governance requirements take stock of what Mbithi has covertly and overtly through acts of omission and commission committed.
Talk has been rife that for the better part from May this year when Mbithi learnt that a council for the UoN will be soon constituted,he caused massive well coordinated, staff transfers across the university and placed his sidekicks and close confidants to key strategic sections and departments.
What followed was destruction of documents which would incriminate him if an audit was carried. The departments that were largely targeted were in the central finance where all suspicious and unsubstantiated payments vouchers were collected and mutilated.
The other departments documents were combed and plucked out is in the administration especially the human resource departments where minutes of appointments meetings were doctored and others shredded to destroy any trail of the many abuse of office appointment.
In such cases, what Mbithi and his confidants have been concealing are cases where his tribesmen were moved from one grade to four grades above. These is rampant across the university.
The university health services has also been heavily raided and documents relating to referrals’ to consultants and hospitals and huge payments effected destroyed. A case well known in the corridors of the university is one by an appointee of the vice chancellor rumoured to have been his relative/sidekick appointed irregularly Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coordinator.
A senior administration staff passed on under suspicious circumstances leaving tongues wagging as he fell ill attending a meeting where he was forced to alter alleged council minutes resolutions which were false. At one time, the late confided to a colleague that he was cautioned by a council member who was getting irritated by craftiness not to divulge details of their meeting as he knew he would cause the minutes altered to reflect one man wishes rather than the members.
The staffer confided to one of his colleagues that he was regretting not to have retired as he was slapped by Mbithi with unsolicited post retirement contract and that was causing him to undertake tasks that were stressing him to the limit with his health deteriorating. He served as a spanner boy, used to prepare council minutes and was also the link person with court activists and lawyers to file court cases against the council. The new council before it learns its roles will be intimidated by inferences that the university senate has given its approval even matters that are administrative which senate is not privy to.
The students’ management is in total shambles. Students’ accommodation has been in a mess in terms of adequacy of facilities and their conditions. The Students Welfare Authority is a den of corruption where management have crafted a scheme to sack most of the casual workers in the pretext of reducing casuals to save on money.
The Swa accounts have also been licked clean bare courtesy of the trio and their insatiable appetite for misuse of public funds through uncontrolled and unbudgeted expenditure. The director Swa is one Dr Maalu. It has been reported that more than 2000 students have missed accommodation and sleep on the floor. The prefabs at Mamlaka and Upper Kabete Soweto have been condemned as unfit for human habitation.