William Bazeyo and salary, the two foxes Makerere is straining fix

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William Bazeyo and salary, the two foxes Makerere is straining fix
Prof William Bazeyo

The University Council is riddled by careering members who hop from one constituency to another and dominate Council business with old methods of doing things at the expense of innovative ideas and advice emanating from new members

ANALYSIS | Makerere scrambled to avert a crisis on the eve of Good Friday by paying staff salaries from one boardroom but the university's administration sitting in another ended with a professor accused of having a 'fake' doctorate degree as a top candidate for the position of Chancellor.

While the university administration sighed with relief over the salary settlement, sources told the Nile Post that 117 staffers were still affected.

"Last month, salaries delayed by about two weeks, and even when they were paid, nearly 400 people were not paid," an official said but refused to be quoted citing lack of authority as it was the responsibility of the Joint Staff Association.

The University Secretary, Yusuf Kiranda, did not respond to queries about the same either. But in an email sent to Joint Staff Association leadership that this website has seen, he had explained the predicament.

"This recurrence of payment delays, similar to what we experienced in February, is deeply regrettable," Mr Kiranda said in the March 26 email.

"I understand the inconvenience this may cause and sincerely ask for your continued patience while we actively seek a resolution with the Ministry of Public Service."

The university had been forced to run helter-skelter to ensure payment after the Joint Staff Association reacted to Mr Kiranda's March 26 email by writing to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service the following day.

Last week, the joint staff gave the university administration until April 8 to find Shs12.6 billion to harmonise their salaries or they withdraw their labour.

Shs12.6 billion is certainly a measly figure. Just a few signatures and it will be in the budget. But two salary delays in a row is not something you want to have on your head when dealing with the usually sensitive staff.

Secretary Kiranda said the issue was related to the Human Capital Management System that are "beyond the university's control".

The said system is run by the Ministry of Public Service and it Makerere thought they had bought time with an email, they were in for the shock after the staff went straight to the ministry.

However, while the Joint Staff Association has the canines howls of Mbwa Kali on so many issues that affect the university, events this past week left them looking as hapless as a village woman trying to use tadoma to light her kitchen on a windy night.

This is about William Bazeyo, a man who resigned his deputy vice-chancellor for finance and administration position when former students exposed the fact that the PhD he presented was not credible.

Bazeyo bouncing back

William Bazeyo

After the Nile Post broke the story of Bazeyo being interviewed by the Search Committee and that his name had been forwarded to the University Council, more revelations dropped fast.

Bazeyo is now a dice roll away from being named Makerere University Chancellor after the Council recommended the Visitor, President Museveni, appoints him as such.

Before the President's desk is also the name of former University Council chairperson Eng Charles Wana Etyem, who by the whispers from the Hill, is a bridesmaid to Bazeyo.

Former Agriculture minister Victoria Ssekitoleko and former vice chancellor of Gulu University Prof Jack Pen-Mogi Nyeko were cut down to size by the Search Committee.

The problem for Makerere is that the boat has already sailed. The ball is in the President's court and Bazeyo's appointment will be a moment of reckoning and one that could potentially open grounds for shaking so many paper cabinets at the Hill.

Makerere has just been glossing over 100 years of stellar work, building a world-class university. Yet it finds itself in a difficult place.

There have been quiet discomfort over the vice-chancellor's credibility as talks that Barnabas Nawangwe's record of publication, and indeed professorship, are questionable, just do not go away.

And while it appeared that Bazeyo's PhD controversy - that the National Council for Higher Education said is not accredited - had been laid to proper rest in the academic cemetery, it turns out that ghosts are real after all.

Bazeyo has returned as a determined ghost intent on ascending and dance from the very top of the centenarian university.

A member of the University's Senate summed it up best: "It is unconscionable that a person who could not go to a respectable university to secure an acceptable degree can be entrusted to confer all the degrees of a well-respected university."

But this is Uganda. Morality and conscience do not add up, instead personal aggrandizement. If a top legislator will go to great length to defend what is dubious enough for all to see, why shouldn't Bazeyo get his wish?

In the ideal world that sees 10,000 students enroll to study about at Makerere every year, Bazeyo should have known to not apply for the position of chancellor in the first place.

But apply, he did. And that is where it all goes haywire. He made it to the shortlist even with the committee fully aware of the circumstances leading to his exit from the university in 2021.

The irony is that Makerere slapped "integrity" as a critical part of the qualification for the titular job. In shortlisting him alone, let alone forwarding his name to the Council, the Search Committee must have seen integrity in Bazeyo.

And that is not farfetched because the country appears to be in acute shortage of integrity so that, like in Congo's Ariwara market, anything goes. That anything includes Bazeyo and his PhD.

The symbolism embedded in the stature of the person of the chancellor as the titular head is key in setting standards for society generally.

If in Bazeyo the University Council has seen credibility in setting standards, then Makerere's standards must have burnt with the Ivory Tower that September 2020.

They say the fish rots from the top. And Makerere seems determined to illustrate this much.

Council in peril

Dr Lorna Magara, chairperson of Makerere University Council.

But to understand how the University Council has taken the risk of propping an academic ghost to the Tower, you would have to see how it has been manipulated over the years.

The University Council, chaired by Dr Lorna Magara, is elaborate with representations from up to 17 interest groups and stakeholders far and wide such as the District Council.

The problem, however, is not the composition but rather how some persons effortlessly moonwalk their way around to stay in the Council for as long as they live.

Bruce Balaba Kabasa, who has been on the Council since 2006 representing convocation, governments and now the general public - or something like that -, will soon make 20 years.

Sarah Ssali is good for 15 years on the Council having represented the academic staff and now Senate.

A member of the Council serves two terms of four years but because of a loophole in the law, they easily circumvent using panya route by hopping from one body of representation after eight years to another.

The challenges in such careering was laid bare by the Dr Abel Rwendeire-led Visitation Committee on Makerere University, 2016, report to the President.

The report, "Bringing the Future to the Present", noted that Makerere was plagued by the existence of "near lifetime members of Council metamorphosing from representation of one constituency to another for Council membership longevity".

The visitation committee said six Council members interacted with had served six to 10 years and one had served on the Council for 20 years.

"This level of entrenchment is achievable by way of cross-constituency migrations which does not breach the Principal Act in any way," the report said.

"This promotes negative group culture whereby long-serving members dominate Council business with old methods of doing things at the expense of innovative ideas and advice emanating from new members."

This could explain how integrity would lose meaning. Careering on the University Council greatly affects its effectiveness.

The report said Council members proposed a two-term mandate of four years each. The recommended solution is to include in the Act a limitation clause placing a curb on the number of representation shifts for a Council Member.

But this has not been done, seven years later, leaving old guards who have retired into the Council with a room to yawn their way in by promoting what can keep them serving longer or eternally.

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