The fate of at least 2, 000 students at the Kiambu-based Presbyterian University of East Africa hangs in the balance following the closure of the facility by the government yesterday.
Acting Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered the closure of the university following recommendation by the Commission for University Education (CUE) that the institution lacked adequate resources to meet its obligations.
Catholic University of East Africa (CUEA), PUEA and Kenyan Methodist University (KeMU) were all found to have been heavily indebted to the extent that they were insolvent. They were also accused of engaging the services of consultants.
“CUEA, Presbyterian University of East Africa and KeMU should stop engaging the service of consultants, particularly in governance. The consultants reflect a creation of a new governance organ that has no legal basis and whose costs are sinking the institutions into more debts.
KeMU was advised by its consultant to take Sh6 billion from a funding company in China but it is in no position to pay the loan.” The three universities were also accused of having a conflict of interest with their mother churches that sponsor them.
In December, Matiang’i said the government would revoke letters of interim authority awarded to universities that had gone beyond the stipulated eight years. The commission has now been directed to ensure all students in PUEA either complete their studies or are transferred.
The commission also recommended that the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service stop sending government-sponsored students to the three learning institutions. CUE recommended that the letter of interim authority awarded to the university in 2007 be revoked.
CUE however spared two other universities: the Kenya Methodist University and Catholic University of Eastern Africa but called for a thorough forensic audit. The two universities were, instead, given a year to restructure their operations and get in a sound financial footing or their charters would be nullified.
Matiang’i can still give PUEA a lifeline if he decides not to gazette its revocation and instead grant it time to restructure operations. In his letter, Matiang’i directed CUE to start the process of winding up the University in line with the provisions of the Universities Act and Universities regulations.
Matiang’i communicated the decision in a letter addressed to CUE chairman Prof Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha. Following the directive, an air of uncertainty and anxiety hang over the university premises yesterday, with lecturers and students converging in small groups to ponder their future.
None of the university administrators was willing to talk to the press as watchmen said they had been ordered to direct journalists to the PCEA headquarters at Milele House, South C, where they found the offices deserted.
The report says university staff had not been paid salaries for two years and that unpaid arrears on salaries and allowances amounted to Sh611 million. “The university had defaulted on remittance of staff salaries, deduction to financial institutions, leading to some staff members being listed at Credit Reference Bureau,” reads the report.
It says the university lacked adequate resources to meet its obligations given the deficit realised in the four years under review which includes; 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015 and 2015/2015/2016 financial years.
The report adds that at the School of Education, one academic leader did not have requisite qualifications in the field of education and most of the staff records did not have copies of academic certificates.
“Salary structure were reported to be too high and others too low. The employees lacked medical insurance despite the fact that it was provided for in terms and condition of service,” says the report.
The university was found to run seven degree programmes and 27 non-degree programmes. The report adds that in 2017/18, students enrolled in degree programmes were 1,032 while diploma, certificate and pre-university programmes were 359.
The ratio of full time staff (56) to part time (33) academic staff members was found to be approximately 2:1 (1:6:1). PUEA first admitted students in 2008 after it was issued with a letter of interim authority on August 10, 2007. It was yet to get a charter.