Makerere staff petition Council over delayed search for VC

Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe (right), addresses the media at Makerere in Kampala in 2019. The staff have petitioned the University Council over the delay to search for a vice chancellor, six weeks to the expiry of Prof Nawangwe’s term of office.  PHOTO/ file

What you need to know:

  • The staff accuse the university vice chancellor of failure to fill most of the top management jobs. 

Makerere University staff have petitioned the University Council over the delay to search for a vice chancellor, six weeks to the expiry of Prof Barnabas Nawangwe’s term of office.
The staff said Prof Nawangwe’s term expires on August 31, but the University Council is reluctant to constitute a search committee to immediately fill the position as provided for in the law.
 “The office of the Vice Chancellor is falling vacant in one-and-a-half months. By now, the search for the VC should have concluded,” the July 14 petition reads in part.

“There are covert, biased, disputed and clandestine methods of trying to evaluate the current vice chancellor to award him another contract well aware that he does not qualify for another contract according to policy. The University Council should start the search process immediately. If the contract of the vice chancellor expires before the completion of the search process, the first deputy vice chancellor should be appointed in acting capacity as per the law,” the petition, which this newspaper has seen, reads further.

Prof Nawangwe, the former deputy vice chancellor of Finance and administration at the university, was appointed vice chancellor in June 2017 for a five-year term.  
He replaced Prof John Ddumba-Ssentamu and is the 11th vice chancellor of the university since its establishment.
Prof Nawangwe applied to the council for reappointment as stipulated by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act.

Highly placed sources told this publication in an interview yesterday that there is a high possibility that Prof Nawangwe will be reappointed.
“Nawangwe’s reappointment was strongly endorsed by the chancellor during his graduation speeches when he said he [Nawangwe] deserves another term because of the good work he has done to transform the university. So if the Council endorsed him, the staff will accept him since the law excludes them in the appointment of the vice chancellor,” a source, who preferred anonymity to speak freely, said.
What the law says
According to article 31 (4) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, the vice chancellor shall be appointed on terms and conditions determined by the University Council for five years and shall be eligible for reappointment for one more term.
This means that the process of advertising and committee relates to the first appointment and not reappointment.
The University Council is thus slated to appraise Prof Nawangwe and if found fit for the job based on his five-years performance, his term could be extended.

In case he is not fit for reappointment, his job will be advertised.
The same scenario applied to the VC of Kyambogo University, Prof Elly Katunguka, who was reappointed by the University Council for another five years.
Prof Nawangwe confirmed to this newspaper in an interview that he had expressed interest in reappointment to the University Council and awaits a response from them.

 “I have applied for reappointment before the University Council,” he told the Daily Monitor.
He declined to comment on other issues raised by the staff.
 The staff criticise Prof Nawangwe over his failure to fill most of the top management jobs. 
According to the staff, the positions of the deputy vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, deputy university secretary, academic registrar, director of quality assurance, director of human resources, director of legal affairs, and deputy dean of students are being held by individuals in an acting capacity. 

Other jobs are the director of Makerere University Institute of Social Research, principal of the College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT), deputy principal of CEDAT, and the principal and deputy principal of the School of Law.
“The university is no longer an equal opportunity employer with an open system capable of inspiring confidence and fairness. The principle of merit in the recruitment, appointment, promotion and disciplinary of staff has been substituted by underhand methods varying of policy provision of goal posts to suit the qualification of favoured candidates amounting to impunity,” the petition stated.

It added: “This trend of underhand methods, unfairness and impunity in recruitment, promotions and post-retirement contracts have created a toxic environment unfavourable for working, teaching and learning in the university.”
The staff want all acting positions to be substantively filled as guided by the existing laws and policies of the university.
The petitions addressed to the University Council, and copied to the Ministry of Education, were signed by all the leadership of teaching, non-teaching staff and the staff Union.

When contacted for a comment on the matter, the chairperson of the University Council, Ms Lorna Magara, promised to call us back but had not done so by press time. 
Her deputy, Mr Dan Kidega, and the university secretary, who also doubles as the secretary to the Council, Mr Yusuf Kiranda, did not answer our calls yesterday.
Under the University and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001, a vice chancellor of a public university shall run the day-to-day affairs of the institution and be responsible for its administration, academic and financial matters.
A suitable candidate is selected following a review of his or her academic documents, face-to-face interviews and public presentation.