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Tough call for university despite State clearance for operations to resume

The year 2018 will forever remain one of the worst in the history of the Presbyterian University of East Africa (Puea).

On January 25, 2018, the then Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i revoked the institution’s Letter of Interim Authority and ordered the Commission for University Education (CUE) to begin winding up the university. The college was said to lack adequate financial resources to meet its obligations.

In a report to the CS, CUE recommended that the Letter of Interim Authority awarded to the university in 2007 be revoked. 

In what could turn out to be a hastily made decision with grave implications, the CS ordered CUE chairman Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha to start winding up the university in line with the provisions of the Universities Act and Universities regulations.

A report to the CS dated January 22, this year by CUE said staff at the university were owed salary arrears and allowances spanning two years amounting to Sh611 million.

“The university had also defaulted on remittance of staff salaries, deduction to financial institutions, leading to some staff members being listed at credit reference bureau,” read the report.

It said the institution lacked adequate resources to meet its obligations given the deficit realised in 2012 to 2016 financial years. The report said 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 structures were reported to be either too high or too low. “The employees lacked medical insurance despite the fact that it was provided for in terms and condition of service. It was established that there was a medical cover by Britam (Insurance Company) only up to 2015,” CUE said.

Since the order to close the institution, the fate of hundreds of its students has hung in the balance this year. Earlier last month, PUEA vice-chancellor, Prof John Mungania denied media reports that the university had begun the process of transferring students to Mount Kenya University (MKU).

There were also allegations— denied by Puea management— that a section of the government-sponsored students had rejected the university’s proposal to transfer credits to MKU and the University of East Africa Baraton respectively, preferring to join public universities instead.

Luckily for Puea, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the reinstatement of the institution’s Letter of Interim Authority last month. This follows recommendations of a Special Advisory Committee (SAC) appointed by Education Cabinet Secretary, Dr Amina Mohamed after Puea appealed against the closure.

Speaking when he joined congregants for a Sunday service at PCEA St Andrew’s Church in Nairobi on October 21, Uhuru said that the government was satisfied with the university’s management efforts to correct the issues facing the college.

“Your commitment to establish the university as a top-notch institution of higher learning is a reflective of your enduring spirit, action to progress the training of our people,” Uhuru said. 

The committee, made up of former vice chancellors of various universities — Prof Ratemo Michieka, Prof Joseph Tuitoek and Prof Crispus Kiamba (chairman— carried out independent investigations of the allegations made against Puea.

During the three-month investigation of Puea operations, they interrogated the institution’s systems against CUE allegations, rules and guidelines for Kenyan  universities. 

The SAC absolved Puea of serious accusations warranting revocation of the Letter of Interim Authority and closure and recommended an immediate reinstatement of the letter. They said Puea is one of the few universities that have a realistic road map to a sustainable and competitive future university. 

“We thank the three professors and their secretariat for their boldness and standing with the truth at a time when Puea was in a weak position,”   said the vice chancellor.

He  promised that Puea will address the areas that SAC observed and recommended within a short time and will be ready for the award of the Charter within six months from now as recommended.    

The  university has also expressed deep appreciation to President Uhuru for his willingness to preside over the reinstatement of the institution’s Letter of Interim Authority as recommended by the committee. “We also want to thank CS Dr Mohamed who acted on our  appeal,” said Prof Mungania.

However, the vice chancellor has admitted that the institution has been facing financial challenges which have affected the management of the university. “Financial problems are not peculiar to this university but what is unique is the revocation of LIA and reinstatement of the same,” he says.   

He said the reinstatement of LIA has rekindled the institution’s partners, friends and students’ confidence.  Appealing for patience and support from all stakeholders, he said:

“There has never been compromise to the standards, rules and regulations and the quality of teaching and learning of our approved programmes. We are ready to find new paths on our road map to recovery,” he added.

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