The Cabinet, on Thursday, February 25, moved to restore Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s powers to appoint and fire Vice-Chancellors, their deputies, and members of universities’ councils. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta approved the Universities (Amendment) Bill 2020 which reverts the powers to Magoha. The bill is now set to be debated and passed into by Parliament.

“As the designated appointing authority, the Cabinet Secretary shall have the power to revoke any appointment to or transfer or otherwise deploy the chairperson or any member of any Council. 

“Where a vacancy occurs in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice-Chancellor of a public university or Principal or Deputy Principal of a constituent college, the Cabinet Secretary shall constitute a selection panel to conduct the recruitment,” the proposed law states.

Under the new law, Magoha will select a panel that will appoint VCs. The committee will consist of a chairperson (a scholar) with 10 years’ experience in leadership and management of public and/or private institutions, representatives of the university council, Education PS, a representative of the private sector and a member of the Public Service Commission (PSC). 

Others include two representatives – a man and a woman – nominated by the university senate and one person with a background in public finance management. 

The selection panel will be tasked with advertising vacancies, vetting and forwarding three names to the CS who will pick one candidate. 

“The panel shall regulate its own procedure. The CS shall upon receipt of the names forwarded appoint a candidate from any of the three qualified applicants. And the selection panel shall stand dissolved after the appointment of a candidate,” the law dictates. 

Magoha’s power had been stripped through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act 2018 and handed over to the Public Service Commission (PSC). This 2018 actcreated conflict between Magoha, the PSC  and the university councils. 

PSC was mandated with hiring VCs and their deputies through the university councils. However, Magoha also cited Section 35 of the Universities Act which dictated that the university councils would appoint VCs and Deputy Vice-Chancellors but must consult the Education CS. 

In January 2020, conflict emerged after Magoha revoked the appointment of the University of Nairobi (UoN) VC Stephen Gitahi Kiama and further dissolved the university’s council. Magoha said that he had not consulted. 

The UoN council had appointed Kiama to succeed former VC Peter Mbithi. The council said that the PSC and Education Ministry had given it the authority to recruit Kiama. Magoha, later on, sued Kiama who declined to step down from the post. 

The CS, however, withdrew his petition  with the court allowing the CS and VC Kiama to negotiate and resolve the leadership crisis at UoN.  Kiama remained the UoN VC. 

sourced from ke