Bickering at Makerere, over Prof. Baryamureeba’s many reforms

Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba is a Professor of Computer Science, Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University and Dean of the Faculty of Computing and Informatics Technology (FCIT) at Makerere University.


Is it a fight for leadership, power, money or both at the oldest institution in the country, Makerere University?

Exactly a year and seven months in office as acting vice chancellor, the same people who supported his coming have turned their backs against Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, claiming he has prioritised himself, forgetting staff welfare and they are demanding he leaves office.

The academic staff chairman, Dr Tanga Odoi, accuses Prof. Baryamureeba of living luxuriously at the expense of his staff. While Dr Odoi is not opposed to the institution becoming a collegiate university, he claims the administration has rushed the process without fully consulting stakeholders.
He further points out that in April, the university bought vehicles for four senior officers when staff had not received their salaries, which has left many disgruntled. Following the criticism, Prof. Baryamureeba has since returned the university car, a Land Cruiser VX. “It was not correct for the Vice Chancellor to buy cars when staff had not been paid. About Shs400m was needed to clear staff allowances at the time the university bought cars worth over Shs700m. We question what management does and at what time,” Dr Tanga explained, adding: “Let us get a better VC to run the university.”

Prof. Baryamureeba replaced Prof Livingstone Luboobi, whose five-year term was marred by allegations of mismanagement that caused at least seven strikes by lecturers and students. Prof Luboobi, trailed in a race that had attracted four contenders for the office when the job was re-advertised.

There has been resistance from some staff concerning the academic introduced by Prof. Baryamureeba but unfazed, he warns of more on the way. “I have issues with his method of work. We supported him when he was coming in office with some of us spending sleepless nights. Why do you use Muasa to climb and all of a sudden you throw it out? We can decide that we don’t want to work with you. Your mandate depends on us,” Mr Odoi said at a Muasa meeting last week.

According to the law, a Vice-Chancellor must be appointed by the Chancellor on recommendation of the university council. However, the government wants to amend this law governing public universities.
But quoting the appointment letter, outgoing higher education Minister Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana said: “The instruments for his (Prof. Baryamureeba) appointment clearly state that he was appointed to serve as acting VC until a new law was in place. He will continue serving as the VC up to when cabinet approves the new law. Even if it takes one or two years or six months, he will still be in office. I don’t want to hear that another process is being initiated. Those who want to replace him will have to wait.”

For many, change is not an easy thing to adjust to. Since Prof. Baryamureeba took over office, there have been a number of reforms at the institution ranging from academic reforms, which involved scrapping off 31 courses and merging ten others as was recommended in the restructuring of academic programmes committee.

The others include the formation of eight colleges and two schools, which currently have altered responsibilities of most staff. The move is intended to create a more collaborative and integrated system with less duplication and more emphasis on meeting socio-economic needs of the university. But Prof Baryamureeba is unfazed. He believes that in his position, the resistance and challenges he is facing with old buddies can only be expected because the demands on him to implement the action plan for which he was given the job and the interests of some of those who believe they helped him raise are bound to clash.

The many changes at the institution must also have led him to step on some toes as is the fact that not everybody’s expectations can be met. He says he expects more resistance as long as he still holds the office because he will continue to implement policies that council will approve. “I’m not the one who started most of the ideas that are being implemented. The college system plan started 15 years ago. I’m not going to cowardise in implementing what council has approved. I may be unpopular at the beginning but people will start to appreciate with time,” Prof. Baryamureeba said. Adding: “We are now going to look at restructuring administrative units. There is a committee looking into that and the report is expected this month. Carrying reforms is not easy especially when it involves money. Some people don’t adjust easily to changes.”

Past regimes
Although they attribute it to past regimes, the university management admits that there have been disparities in areas of staff remuneration and says council is working on it with feedback expected latest July. “Council is handling the issue of the disparities in the top-up allowance paid to staff through its Finance, Planning and Administration committee, and is expected to start on the implementation of the harmonisation of allowances in the next financial year,” Ms Ritah Namisango, the institution’s relation’s officer said.

A council meeting chaired by Dr David Matovu in 2000 proposed and passed a resolution that top-up allowances of the university secretary, academic registrar, dean of students and bursar be doubled to reflect equity, status and responsibility.

For example, the bursar, who was earning a monthly top-up of Shs1.65m now receives Shs3.3m. But while top-up allowances for some staff were effected, others like for cleaners and communication officers have never seen the light. However, the allowances were dependent on how much each unit was able to generate. A dean, who then was the highest authority at faculty level, say in ICT earned Shs7m a month outside salary. But under the college system, it has been agreed that allowances don’t exceed Shs3.5m for principals. Their deputies get Shs3.3m, the dean (Shs3.1) and head of department (Shs3m) pending a report on harmonisation of allowances from council.

In a report by MTC Associates on utilisation of Internally Generated Funds (IGFs) with special reference to harmonisation of allowances, 2008, it highlights that disparity in top-up allowances date back to the 1990s following the introduction of the private students’ entry scheme.
Nevertheless, the consultants recommended that the payment of top-up allowance be retained based on salary scale.

“The introduction of IGFs came along with challenges of management, distribution, and reduction in government funding. This led to the categorisation of units within the university as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, based on respective amounts contributed to the IGFs,” reads part of the report.

Dr Charles Wana-Etyem, the chairman of the Makerere University Council, asked his team not to forget history and work towards promoting the vision of the university. “We don’t want to forget history. Expenditures are based on budget and if the budget is spent within the law, there is no problem. Dr Tanga has personal views and we all have our own. But we must all follow procedure of law which indicate how a person can come in or exit,” Dr Wana explained.

Although he faulted Prof Baryamureeba for becoming emotional when he returned the university car, Mr Bruce Balaba, the convocation chairperson, warned that failure to have a communication policy will continue to breed such problems among staff if not corrected.

Chain of command
“There is failure to appreciate the chain of command at the university. There is no communication chain and the blame is on council and our part, Mr Balaba explained, adding: “You can express displeasure to council but you can’t cause a vote of no confidence in a person you have not hired. Barya should not be diverted. He should pick the car because he is entitled to it and neither does he chair the budget committee nor council.”