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Judge compels JKUAT to pay Imbuga’s exit package

Prof Mabel Imbuga, former JKUAT vice-chancellor
Prof Mabel Imbuga, former JKUAT vice-chancellor. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has been given 21 days to calculate and pay its former vice-chancellor, Mabel Imbuga, her exit package after she complained that she had been denied the perks on the basis of a circular issued by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2014.

Justice Onesmus Makau of the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruled that Prof Imbuga was entitled to the exit package in line with the 2003 terms and conditions of service for vice-chancellors. This will hold until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) approves the circular that removed the package.

“I have found that the exit package clause in the respondent’s 2014 Terms and Conditions of Service were unenforceable for want of approval by the SRC. I have further found that the invalidation of the said clause did not take away everything from the claimant because she reverted to the 2003 exit package clause, which had crystalised before the 2010 Constitution came into force and SRC established,” the judge ruled.

The payment includes a monthly basic salary of up to Sh740,000, all other allowances payable monthly at the time of exit, membership to a club of choice, an office with a secretary and research assistant, an official car fuelled and serviced by the university and a driver. She is also entitled to other secretarial support, telephone and utility expenses, a house servant, a gardener and a watchman for a period of five years and payment of water and electricity bills as long as she remains in the service of the university.

Prof Imbuga sued the university, arguing that she was denied the exit package, which entitled her to retain certain benefits that she had enjoyed during her tenure as vice-chancellor. She said after expiry of her contract as VC she went back to her job as a lecturer but was denied the benefits guaranteed under the exit package.

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She argued that the university’s failure to implement the exit clause amounted to breach of her contract of service and that the move was discriminatory since other former vice-chancellors like Prof George Magoha (University of Nairobi) and Prof James Tuitoek (Egerton) were given the exit package. It was her argument that the circular did not affect her because it was issued after she had executed her contract.

Prof Imbuga was employed as a lecturer at the institution in 1997 and was later elevated to the position of vice-chancellor, a position she served in from 2008 to July 2018 when she reverted to her earlier position as lecturer. JKUAT said it was prevented from implementing the exit package clause by directives and a circular from the State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) dated May 2015, and October 2016 respectively.

JKUAT further said that the former VC had already been paid substantial amounts, but she could not get the exit package dues due to limited capitation from the government and reduced funding.

The court heard that as a public university, the institution’s budget and expenditure was subject to government approval and was bound by circulars as a State corporation.

Consequently, it relied on the said circular to contend that the exit package clause of the claimant’s contract of service was not enforceable. The court heard that whereas retaining services of retired CEOs in research institutes and public universities was globally accepted, retaining them would create unnecessary power games and lead to inordinate and unsustainable expenses to the institutions.

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