Makerere withholds 14,000 transcripts over fake marks

Awarded. Makerere University Chancellor, Dr Ezra Suruma (right), hands over a certificate to Mr Rodgers Mukalele (left), the most outstanding student in sciences during the 67th graduation ceremony last month. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA

What you need to know:

Probe. The administration will take three to four weeks investigating the matter


Makerere University has withheld 14,895 transcripts for students who graduated in February until the institution completes cleaning up its results management system after some staff infiltrated the system and falsified some of the students’ marks.

Prof John Ssentamu Ddumba, the university vice chancellor, yesterday asked the former students and the public to give them three to four weeks to investigate the matter and remove those who were illegally listed in the 67th graduation booklet.

“There is nothing the university can do. But students can give us three to four weeks to sort out the problem and we will start issuing transcripts again. We hadn’t started giving them out yet and I can’t give them when we know there is a problem,” Prof Ddumba told Daily Monitor yesterday in an interview.

The university took the decision on March 9 after suspending four staff from the Academic Registrar’s department on suspicion that they participated in altering students’ marks without permission from their bosses.

The suspects include Mr Mike Bitamale Barongo, the head of ICT, Mr Dennis Mbabazi, Ms Joyce Namusoke, and Mr Christopher Ntwatwa, all administrative assistants in the Academic Registrar’s office, who have since been arrested. Only Mr Barongo was later released.

It is against this backdrop that the Academic Registrar, Mr Alfred Masikye Namoah, on March 20 wrote to the university staff, students and stakeholders indicating they had temporarily shut down the transcripts processing in order to clean up the mess.

“The Academic Registrar with the college registrars recalled and scrutinised the names of students on the 67th graduation list. During the verification, names of 58 students with altered marks were withdrawn. The university management discovered that there was alteration of marks,” Mr Namoah wrote almost a month after the February graduation ceremony.

“This is to inform our graduates and any other stakeholders that the transcripts processing system is temporarily shut down. The university will continue to give updates regarding this matter,” he added.

This is not the first time that Makerere withholds students’ transcripts after graduation. In 2015, a total of 13,776 students were affected as they waited for the university officials to verify their results.

Ms Christine Amori, an Industrial and Organisational Psychology graduate, is one of the affected former students who has failed to appear for interviews after graduation for lack of a transcript to prove that she completed her studies. She looked agitated yesterday at the news and for some hours, lingered in the Senate Building, which houses the transcripts office pondering on her next move.

“There is high competition out there for the jobs. I went to apply for a job at the Uganda Management Institute but I was asked to submit my academic documents. When I came to pick up the transcript, I was turned down. I don’t know what to do,” Ms Amori said.

Like his boss, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance, said they regret the inconvenience they have caused their clients but appealed that the public gives the university an opportunity to clean up its system.

“It is true the university realised there is a mess in the results of the 67th graduands. They had to halt issuance of transcript so that they can clean up the whole process and issue transcripts without any doubt. It is unfortunate for our former students that we can’t serve them right now,” Prof Nawangwe said.

Mr Deus Kamunyu, a lecturer, supported the university management decision to suspend issuance of the transcripts in order to safeguard the institution’s data and image.

Prof Ddumba said the university has engaged its Senate IT team to clean up the system. However, some staff members are worried that because the team has been working with the suspects in the same department, they could be used to tamper with the evidence to use against those already in police custody.

In 2008, the Senate at its 133rd meeting noted with concern that the data they were storing on the Academic Records Information System (ARIS) was not secure and was not functioning as well as expected. It was also noted that some academic units had declined to use it and instead developed their own.

A committee was subsequently set up comprising Prof Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, the former vice chancellor in charge of Finance and former State minister for Higher Education, Dr Idris A Rai, Dr N Mulira and Dr L.K Atuhaire.

The team later recommended that the systems developed to handle examination results be equipped with alerts so that they can instantly notify the control centre of changes being made to marks indicating the location and user.

“That information would enable the Control Centre to verify whether proper authority to make changes was given,” the report on ARIS assessment notes.

But the university officials have never implemented some of the recommendations with reports of altered results without authority continuing to haunt the university almost 10 years after the safeguards were proposed.