Row rages as Kemu sacks 6 top managers

Educationists have warned that the ongoing tussles at the institution could hurt learning for the 8,000 students. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI
Educationists have warned that the ongoing tussles at the institution could hurt learning for the 8,000 students. Photo/LIZ MUTHONI 

Six senior managers at the Kenya Methodist University have been sent packing, deepening the management crisis that began two weeks ago with the ouster of vice chancellor Mutuma Mugambi.

It was not clear whether their removal was temporary or permanent, but sources within the university’s council told Business Daily that more changes were on the cards and would affect at least 10 senior staff.

The shake-up is linked to a determination by the new administrator, Prof Alfred Mutema, to clear the executive suites of Prof Mugambi’s associates.

The list of top managers who have been asked to leave include the associate principal, Jane Kimemia Mugambi, ICT and Strategy director Hudson Aluvanze, and the dean of students, Japheth Githaiga.

Others are Alfred Muchai, the director of the Mombasa campus and Ms Mukami Njoroge, the administrative registrar.

“This is to inform you that following the appointment of the acting VC, it has been found necessary to make changes in various departments for purposes of improving service delivery both on the academic and administrative fronts,” reads one of the letters signed by Prof Mutema. “Please make arrangements to hand over immediately and report to the deputy VC (finance and administration) for further instructions.”

Two weeks ago, the Kenya Methodist University found itself on the horns of dilemma when the chair of the board reversed Prof Mugambi’s order of immediate closure of the college, citing inability to access the offices and lecture rooms.

It was thought that Prof Mugambi’s exit would bring the management feud to an end, but the latest sackings indicate that many more heads are likely to roll before the dust settles at the church-sponsored college.

Educationists have warned that the ongoing tussles at the institution could hurt learning for the 8,000 students.

The university’s troubles have been linked to differences over the institution’s expansion drive that has seen it acquire multi-billion shilling properties in the capital city, Nairobi, and the church’s hand in the promotion of non-qualified staff to senior academic positions.

Prof Mutema described the shake-up as a normal human resources realignment exercise meant to improve efficiency of service delivery.

All the affected managers are said to be allied to Prof Mugambi.

The fate of the suspended managers is to be determined this morning at a meeting with some members of the university’s council.

Commission for Higher Education (CHE) has warned in an audit report that the university could slide into disruptions if the crisis is not immediately resolved.

The audit seen by the Business Daily links the Kemu row to differences over interpretation of the transition period that began with the issuance of the Letter of Interim Authority and the award of the Charter in 2006.

The audit notes that the provisions of the Charter and the Trust Deed are in conflict in their definition of the functions of the Board of Trustees and the Council.

The commission reckons that the principles of separation of powers and co-operation had been compromised –– hurting good governance.

Boardroom battles are, however, not unique to the multi-billion shilling Methodist University, but are common in many institutions of higher learning countrywide.

Concern is rising that explosive wrangles over the management of private colleges could further dilute the quality of education in Kenyan universities, which has been declining gradually with the deepening of the enrolment crisis since the parallel degree modules were introduced in the late 1990s.

The audit report notes that Kemu has been launching new programmes without the approval of the commission as required by law.

“The university had established centres of learning that have not been inspected by or authorised to operate,” says the 2009 report, which concludes that the commission could consider closing such centres. “The university must immediately cease offering programmes that have not been approved by the commission.”

The management wars and governance concerns come at a time when educationists and employers are increasingly questioning the quality of degrees from local universities.

“Conflict over who does what between the organs as well as leadership and succession battles are common in our universities,” said Andrew Riechi, an education expert at the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR), a policy think-tank.

“This leaves the institutions in an awkward position as the sponsors might want one thing, but the management wants the other,” he said.

This was happening even as Prof Mugambi and the Kemu council continued to tussle over the removal of the former, a battle that has over the past few days been fought in the Press, but it is said to be headed for the courts.

Prof Mugambi and a section of the senior management had locked horns with the Board of Trustees over what they saw as undue interference by the Archbishop of the Methodist Church, Stephen Kanyaru, in the affairs of the institution placing governance of private universities under the spotlight.

Prof Mugambi claims that Dr Kanyaru had extended his influence beyond that mandate and was forcing the management’s hand into decisions that could negatively impact on the quality of learning at the institution.