Makerere University is in advanced stages of scouting for two deputy vice chancellors (DVCs); one for Academic Affairs and another for Finance and Administration. Seven contenders made public presentation on Monday and Tuesday, to justify their individual suitability for the pivotal administrative jobs and envision a new trajectory for the varsity.
We take note of the Monday offerings by Prof Okello-Obura, associate professors Umar Kakumba and Gorettie Nabanoga, Dr Betty Ezati and Dr Peter Baguma regarding the Academic Affairs docket. Professors William Bazeyo and Anthony Mugisha pitched to the public yesterday for the
DVC, Finance and Administration, slot. We will not preoccupy with the nitty-gritty of their public canvassing.
The millstones for the country’s oldest and largest public university, and upon which the relevant credentials of the incumbent for either post is contingent are unexciting: Inadequate resourcing, high staff attrition, suffocating debt portfolio, industrial action by employees and students’ strikes.
These, put together, hemorrhage manpower, emasculate management and hamstring quality research, teaching and learning. The principal purpose of the university is to be a generator of knowledge to solve problems in and of the society. This requires the institution to pioneer innovation, invest in cutting-edge research, steer intellectual discourse and policy formulation and reject mediocrity.
The DVCs, therefore, sit at the crosshairs of decision-making that quickens or regresses the scholarly character and influence of Makerere University. Integrity is, therefore, an inexorable for the office holder.
A deputy VC for Finance must be enterprising and command wide and clean networks, including establishment of endowment chairs, to attract government, foundation and private sector funding. Trust and cash flows will depend on proper accountability. This requires that the incumbent must be incorruptible. Makerere University’s overall debt portfolio grosses Shs63b, including about Shs4.5b and Shs9.8b in arrears to staff and retirees, respectively.
We are alive to the concern of a 2013 Prof Francis Omaswa–led ad hoc committee raised regarding duplication of roles of the VC and the deputy in-charge of Administration/Finance on the one hand and between the DVC superintending Academic Affairs and the University Academic Registrar.
Makerere must lobby for an amendment of Sections 32 and 34 of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001, to resolve the inherent conflicted duties.
It is our view that such a legislation that renders senior executives to power battle will poison the work environment, confuse subordinates on loyalty and snarl up progressive decision-making. We worry that under 100 lecturers and students attended the Monday presentation. As primary stakeholders, the university community must show intellectual curiosity by interrogating promises of prospective executives.
Let the best candidate win.