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District Security Committee meets over Mbarara University staff strike

MUST staffs chatting after the meeting. (PML Daily PHOTO)

MBARARA – As the staff strike at Mbarara University of Science and Technology enters the sixth day, the Mbarara District Security Committee led by Lt. Col James Mwesigye have this afternoon held a crisis security meeting to forge a way forward to ending the impasse at the institution.

The meeting came after some students stormed the office of the RDC in the morning of May 7, in a peaceful procession seeking intervention on why they are not being taught and whether they are going to sit for their end of semester exams slated for May 13, 2019.

The security meeting which was closed to none members including media was attended by the DPC Mbarara, Mr. Murungi, Collins Kaganzi the Field Force Unit (FFU) Commander, LCV Chairman Capt John Bosco Bamuturaki, Deputy RDC Emmy Katera and RDC Lt. Col James Mwesigye and lasted for over 30 minutes.

Later Emmy Katera told media without divulging into the details of the meeting that they had agreed to hold a meeting with the MUST student leaders and members of the university council.

Katera confirmed to us that the storming of students at their office in the morning emanated from the meeting that was held yesterday in Kampala by the Chairperson of council, Ben Mbonye with some members of MUSTASA which ended without resolving any matter.

Emmy Katera Deputy RDC Mbarara. (PHOTO/BOB AINE)

“When council chair summoned a meeting on Monday in Kampala they had gone to agree on how to handle these matters. One of the submissions from MUSTASA members was that the current VC Prof Celestine Obua and his University Secretary Melchior Byaruhanga should be subjected to investigations into misuse of funds and as they are going on, the accused persons should step aside, this generated a heated discussion where the chairperson council declined to write arguing that he will first consult the solicitor general,” he said.

In a letter dated May 6, 2019, from Prof. Obua to the MUST students’ community he said he was going to communicate the resolutions from the meeting that was held in Kampala which he did not do.

“Dear MUST students, the current strike by MUST staff that has temporary disrupted lectures and your preparations for the end of year semester exams is regrettable. This is to inform you that the chancellor and chairman council is today (Monday) scheduled to have a meeting with the leadership of the staff association and the guild leadership to forge a way forward for a solution to the standoff” The letter reads in part.

It adds, “It’s my prayer and hope that the results of the discussions will be communicated by close of business today (Monday) May 6, 2019 in any case not later than Tuesday by end of business. I promise to give you [an] update on the situation immediately we get communication on the results of the meeting,” the letter reads in part.

“So we agreed that if the university leadership has failed to handle these matters we representatives of government are going to take over because we cannot allow this university to collapse. The meeting we are going to hold tonight is to ensure that lecturers resume tomorrow and if they don’t then we shall close it which will be costly to the students and parents even the image of the university will be tainted.” Katera asserted.

Why they want Prof Obua out?

The staff highlight that Prof Obua has mismanaged university funds through directing the opening of bank accounts without the authorization of council in the case of MURTI, MUREEP and HEPI projects contrary to the Universities and Other Tertiary Institution Act (UOTIA).

MUST’s VC Prof. Obua Celestine in his office. (PML Daily PHOTO)

That he directed change of signatories that are not mandated to manage university accounts and opening up structures which are not approved by the university council to manage funds. They gave an example of Office of Research and Administration (ORA) that this was Prof. Obua’s initiative to open up such an office to siphon university funds.

“The vice-chancellor has since July 2016 drawn his monthly emoluments on both the government payment and off-payroll which we believe is a deliberate Tax Avoidance Scheme to his benefit and exposing the institution the risk of financial loss,” the petition reads in part.

On suffocating the operations of MUST grants office, they showed that Obua carried out irregular transfer and management of MURTI, MUREEP and HEPI project funds from MGO accounts to Office of Research and Administration (ORA) without the council’s approval. That he allowed the operationalisation and management of university funds in an office outside the university establishment.

They further accuse the professor of not heeding to council directives and flouting of the university policy framework especially on the university overhead expenses managed under the overhead policy.

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