I acted on the President’s orders, Magoha says on VC drama

The raging drama over the appointment of a vice-chancellor at the University of Nairobi worsened yesterday after the courts reversed a directive annulling the installation of Prof Stephen Kiama even as Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha stood his ground, invoking President Uhuru Kenyatta’s name.

Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Maureen Onyango suspended the order issued by Prof Magoha on Friday, which stopped Prof Kiama from taking over as vice-chancellor.

Lady Justice Onyango also revoked Prof Magoha’s appointment of Prof Isaac Mbeche as the acting VC of the country’s oldest and largest institution of higher learning.

It was a day of high drama as Prof Magoha admitted that he had acted on orders from State House, while the Public Service Commission (PSC), which had conducted the interviews and ranked Prof Kiama tops, also defended its position.

Prof Magoha said he acted on the instructions of President Uhuru Kenyatta when he cancelled Prof Kiama’s appointment and dissolved the council chaired by Prof Julia Ojiambo.

In what appears to take away the freedom of university councils to appoint top managers, Prof Magoha said President Kenyatta was not bound by the recommendations of the council or any entity on who should be appointed to run the institution, citing the recent decision by the Head of State to reject three nominees for the post of Auditor- General.

But within the corridors of justice, Lady Justice Onyango was issuing a contrary directive.

Appointing authority “An order is issued to stay Prof Magoha’s decision contained in his letter dated January 17, purporting to revoke Prof Kiama’s appointment as vice-chancellor of UoN,” the judge directed (see separate story on page).

Speaking earlier, Prof Magoha acknowledged that he met the council on January 3 and was briefed on the appointment. He told them that he would consult further. He is understood to have taken action after consultation with President Kenyatta in Mombasa.

He cautioned that the consultation was not an information process, but a deliberative one.

“I met them on January 3, and the council presented the candidate they recommended and I told them well, I will consult. I consult upwards, and consultation is ongoing.

But they went ahead and appointed a VC. Then the owner of the process asked me about it.

I cannot appoint someone without consultation, I take orders from my appointing authority,” said Prof Magoha. He added a new twist to the saga when he suggested that the directive to appoint Prof Kiama may have come from outside the hiring process.

“What you are seeing is a directive coming from somewhere.

Somebody somewhere is pulling strings to destroy the university,” said Prof Magoha, while addressing journalists after assessing progress of the 100 per cent transition programme in Kibera, Nairobi.

The Statue Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) 2018 Act, which was signed into law in January last year by President Kenyatta, took away the power of university councils to advertise, interview and recommend for appointment top university managers.

Instead, university councils should appoint vice-chancellors, their deputies and principals of colleges, in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary, after a competitive recruitment process conducted by the PSC.

By Daily Nation

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