Kampala- Makerere University is undertaking a comprehensive audit of marks of students over the past several years to identify and recall degrees obtained on the basis of forged or altered results.
Our investigations show that Dr Damalie Naggitta-Musoke, the former dean of the School of Law, is heading the inquiries being conducted by what is officially called the central ad hoc examinations, irregularities and malpractices committee. It began its work last November.
However, a staggering mismatch unearthed between results submitted by colleges and schools and final scores released by the Office of the Academic Registrar prompted the university to stretch the investigation to cover the past five years.
For instance, the School of Law, results awarded even a decade ago are being reviewed, sources familiar with the investigations told this newspaper on condition of anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the matter.
According to two other sources, a former minister who obtained a graduate degree in Public Administration and a number of Members of Parliament as well as high-flying professionals in the country will likely to be affected.
We have withheld identities of the officials in order not to jeopardise investigations.
In some cases, students with retakes were processed to graduate.
The Naggitta-Musoke committee has in its preliminary report linked the disparities to students’ results being altered at Senate level after lecturers and college and school registrars’ submissions.
Ahead of last February graduation, some lecturers at the last minute alerted authorities that ineligible students had been cleared to graduate, prompting the university management to remove names of 50 graduands from the graduation booklet and block conferment of degrees on them. The university withheld transcripts of thousands more out of the 14,000 who graduated, pending verification of their results. Without transcripts, many of the affected alumni have had headache applying for scholarships or jobs.
The unearthing of the anomalies prompted the suspension of six staff in the Office of the Academic Registrar, and they remain under police investigation.
Weeks after the graduation, Makerere in March closed the online marks system and suspended the issuance of academic transcripts. The online marks system was being used to enter and store student’s examination scores.
“We decided to investigate the results for the past five years,” the incoming Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe said yesterday, adding: “And where need be, we shall go deeper because all the colleges are affected and we shall continue investigating the results if there is anyone suspected to have cheated.”
Series of complaints
The complaints about alteration of students’ marks at the university are not new, starting initially with allegations of sex-for-mark demands, favouritism of relatives or friends of lecturers and later outright bribery for better grades.
This commercialisation moved the university to automate results’ management, which was expected to be foolproof.
It was shortly afterward discovered that individuals with access rights directly manipulated results in the system and, with time, became bold to run an online market to solicit money from prospective graduands.
Prof Nawangwe in Monday's interview said the institution’s management has handed academic records of students in the custody of the Academic Registrar back to the schools and colleges to manually verify with their own data.
The process, this newspaper understands, will include cross-checking the Academic Registrar’s entries against scores on examination scripts, what a lecturer forwarded to the school or college examination board and the published semester-by-semester results of each student.
It is unclear how long such a physical exercise will take, but the university administrators said nothing is too cumbersome if it helps to get to the bottom of the matter and restore the integrity of the academic awards of the country’s largest and oldest public university.
As the university battles in-house problems, some of its drop-outs or individuals who never enrolled at Makerere, according to police, forge transcripts mainly at Nkrumah Road printing hub in Kampala purporting that the institution issued them.
Academic registrar Alfred Masikye Namoah confirmed the renewed investigations but referred our inquiries to the ad hoc committee head Dr Damalie Naggitta-Musoke who told us to ask the Academic Registrar.
The latter, however, said they had concluded their investigations and were now conducting hearings for affected students.
“As far as I know, investigations were conducted and now hearings are going on. If you want more information, go to the academic registrar and the public relations officer; they have all the information,” she said.
Earlier yesterday, Prof Nawangwe, who until his election this year as Vice Chancellor was the deputy VC in-charge Finance and Administration, said the Senate, the institution’s highest academic organ, discovered that forgery of results was a “widespread problem”.
As such, he noted, all colleges and schools have been ordered to verify the marks of all students who graduated since 2011 to ascertain the authenticity of their results and class of degrees awarded.
“Forgery is a widespread problem. Nobody will graduate with forged results,” the new vice chancellor said, adding that forgery of results is a challenge for universities world-wide.
Inside sources who asked not to be named in order to speak freely on the matter said the College of Business and Management Sciences and the College of Education and External Studies were the most hit by forgeries because the college administrators allowed non-employees to upload students’ results.
Prof Nawangwe, however, said last evening that they had halted the illegal practice and registrars or senior university staff members rotate as understudies for colleagues on leave or out of station.