MBARARA – The impasse at Mbarara University of Science and Technology(MUST) over the replacement of the current Vice Chancellor Prof. Celestine Obua has a taken a fresh twist as Obua vowed not to leave office arguing that he is eligible for re-appointment.
It should be recalled the staffs general assembly last month members of staffs at MUST under their association of Mbarara University of Science and Technology Academic Staffs Association (MUSTASA) expressed their worry and challenged the manner in which the process of getting a new vice-chancellor is being downplayed by a clique of some members in the top management accusing them of hatching plans to ring-fence the position and have the Obua automatically re-appointed.
They even went ahead in their general assembly to set conditions that the search committee which was instituted should consult all stakeholders and constituencies in the university to have an input in selecting their VC or else they will reject the outcomes.
In an interview in his office on Friday, Prof. Obua explained that he is entitled and eligible to re-appointment after a thorough assessment on his performance which he said is not questionable.
He pointed that prior in his tenure of office, he had not encountered enormous challenges not until this period when his term of office is coming to an end. He revealed that there are few vocal staffs that influence others to make noise in the university.
“There is a group of staffs two or more vocal people who want you the media people to capture them and shouting that the VC must go, but when you ask them what has the VC failed to do, he cannot tell you, the university is being viewed outside to be doing well and ranked in Africa 35th in Africa, so some members here I don’t whether its by the nature of their appointment, they don’t see any growth in them and these are the people that are acting desperately and have failed to grow in their own sense” Fumed Prof. Celestine.
He further opined that the major challenge is that those people who think is incumbent upon them to cause change, have failed to interpret the Act properly.
“When the Act says that the VC is appointed for one term and is eligible for reappointment for the second term after advertising and it goes ahead to say that the applicant must be between the age of 45 to 65, so when you employ me when am 65 and in my terms of employment you say that am eligible for re-appointment does it mean you have a cap on the age limit? You can’t say so, because you are employing some of 65 by the end of his term he will be 70 meaning now is eligible for re-appointment, for them, they are failing to interpret the Act.”Further explained Celestine.
Before adding, “am eligible for re-appointment, the solicitor general has written explaining what re-appointment means it’s not automatic but the person must be given an opportunity to be assessed and appraised and only when is found wanting then the position can be advertised and a search committee can be set but as long as is eligible for re-appointment assessed and found he has been performing, then there is no need for advertising that position, you cannot say you subject him to the new search, we have had such cases in court ”
Obua pointed out the case of Prof Omolo Isiah Ndiege then Kyambogo University who sued the university and was given shs1.5bn over the same issues. Prof. Obua dares the university council to advertise his position.
“I think I will not ask for shs1.5bn it will be much if council advertises my position before subjecting me to a performance appraisal and assessment because the only money I have brought in this university through grants I have won as Obua, not as VC is not less than Shs100bn,” Said Obua.
He insists that the conclusion of this appraisal should determine what should be done. “The university is growing, grants are coming in, the new programmes have been established I have just established the faculty of applied science where we started with 27 students apparently we have nearly 200 students so on the academic front, would you say that the VC has failed? No on the development front, I have successfully negotiated the construction of hostels at Kihumuro new compass”
He appreciated the fact that there are staffs and students who sometimes are aggrieved but there has never been a strike and that he has managed to contain it not to go beyond the gates.
On the search committee, Prof. Obua insisted that it was instituted illegally by the council and that they did not abide by the advice of the solicitor general.
“On the evening on the Senate meeting, the chairman council wrote to me saying the issue of the search committee is on the agenda and advised that we stay the process of selecting the committee until we hear from council, but of course some members on senate are council members they shouted and said no noo nooo, I told them there is even a legal advice from solicitor general, they insisted and pushed me out of the meeting saying I have conflict of interest, when I came back in the meeting I found they had selected members of the committee”.
He insists that it will be tragic if council advertises his position without appraising him since he has already requested for the same.
On sole decision making, Prof. Obua rubbished it saying that he has all times consulted management in whatever decision he takes. “Any issues that I think requires consensus I consult the top management to avoid the blame game and we have done it well”
He thinks that what has created the rift between him and some members in the university is the streamlining of financial systems. “When I came I found there was no proper system to know how much the university earns and how much it spends, I think those who were beneficiaries raged a war on me, like for the cows, the president gave them 100 cows in 1987, I came 25 years later I found them still 100.i asked were these cows given family planning but when I streamlined, we sell now 50 cows every year” said Obua.