Makerere University, the largest institution of higher learning in the country, is in chaos over its failure to show transparency over the estimated sh24b annually raised from private students’ programme.
TOP Business STORY
Tue Apr 06 2004 .
MUK dons strike over evening class monies
Vision Reporter
Journalist @ New vision
Makerere University, the largest institution of higher learning in the country, is in chaos over its failure to show transparency over the estimated sh24b annually raised from private students’ programme.
By Emmy Allio and Fortunate Ahimbisibwe

Makerere University, the largest institution of higher learning in the country, is in chaos over its failure to show transparency over the estimated sh24b annually raised from private students’ programme.

The university teaching staff is now on strike. There are threats of strikes from various interest groups asking to have a share of the money.

Besides the tuition feee, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) wants to know the accountability for the sh4b the university collected last year from application fees.

Last month, the university administration raised salaries and wages of staff by 30%, but all groups have since rejected the pay rise. They are instead asking for accountability.

Amidst allegations of financial irregularities, the top university administration is being accused of conniving with some officials of the ministry of education and sports in planning to privatise the halls of residence in the university and scrap accommodation for government-aided students.

Impeccable sources said that top university staff are investing in hostels mushrooming around the Makerere hill and that the above measures, if adopted, will benefit the hostel business.

“Where will the children of peasants go if government will only pay for tuition and not accommodation?” a senior lecturer asked.

Early last week, the lower calibre university staff who some Ivory Tower officials describe as ‘peasants’ agreed to call off their strike, but they gave the administration 21 days to address their issue of pay rise.

On April 2, 2004, in a meeting at the Faculty of Agriculture, MUASA resolved to go on strike unless the university’s central administration accounts for monies collected from private students.

They said that if the top administration does not explain how that money is spent, then they would lay down their tools then.
The MUASA meeting chaired by Dr. Ezra Twesigomwe observed that the 30% increment, which was declared last month, was meant to divert them from the internally generated funds.

“Our position is that we want the benefits of our sweat. A lecturer works for 18 hours a day. But earns less than sh1m. Some administrators here earn over sh3.9m only in form of top allowance.

There is an unfair distribution of the revenue,” said a lecturer. There is also a looming crisis between the University central administration and the 11 heads of the richest faculties at the University over a proposed slash on their top up allowances by 26.4% to pay staff from low income departments.

All the deans and directors have rejected the University Council decision. Lecturers of private programmes have vowed to stop teaching the evening programmes if the University council upholds this decision.

The issue of contention over the private students programme is the way the money generated is divided between the faculties and the central administration. For day courses, central administration takes 51% while the faculty stays with 49% and for the evening programmes, the central administration takes 49% and the faculties retains 51%.

In a meeting on March 24 at the Faculty of Arts, the deans and directors opposed the decision of the university council to deduct 26.4% administrative/responsibility allowances without the consent of university staff members.

“The question now nagging us is: what do we get in return from such a sizeable contribution?

What does the money transferred to the central administration and other faculties do? Why is there a skew inclination towards certain disciplines in the university allocation of research and projects’ grants? These issues need clear and documented responses,” the deans wrote in a March 24, communication to the central administration.

The meeting was attended by the director Institute of Computer Science, Dr. Venansius Baryamureeba, Emmanuel Harimbazi, Ag Dean of Law, Dr. E.R Kirumira, Dean of Social Sciences, Togboa Natukunda, Deputy Dean of Law, Hannington Sengendo, Dean Faculty of Arts, Massembe Sebbunga, Dean of Law, other deans and directors included Josephine Mukasa, Ikoja Odongo, A.M. Balihalita and Okello Atwaru.

Sources said the heads of the 11 richest faculties were bitter that the reduction in their income was likely to affect the evening programmes where most of the lecturers were hired on part-time basis. Up to 60% of the private students are on the evening programme, the biggest income earner for the faculties.

“We were not consulted before council came up with that decision. Every programme is approved with a budget and reducing the budget means doing away with the programmes.

So if our advice is not heeded, we might be forced to do away with the evening programme,” said a senior official who preferred anonymity.

Prof. John Ssebuwufu, the University Vice Chancellor, rubbished the queries of the deans and directors and said that ‘they need to clean their houses first.’
He said, “We studied this matter very carefully after receiving complaints that the 45%, which stays at the faculties, was not put to the right use.

That is why Council decided that 26.4% should be reduced so that everyone at the university benefits from this income.”

Ssebuwufu said that the money, which stays at the central administration, does many things but only 6% stays at the centre. He said the rest is divided into other activities, 22% goes for salaries, 3% to the library, 4% to staff development, 8% is for in house administration, 2% is for Information Communication Technology (ICT).

“The university runs in accordance with the decision of the council. It’s the council, which determines what goes on here,” he said.

About the hostels mushrooming on Makerere hill, Ssebuwufu said, “It is a private affair. The university has nothing to do about people who are building hostels.

That is personal development. People here work very hard for their money and choose to invest in different ways.”

He said, “I personally do not own a hostel but if there are top university administrators who own these hostels, it is just an individual business. What is wrong with people having money?

The problem here is that people think whoever has money has stolen it. However, we have had those complaints that university employees are amassing property.”

Some lectures are asking the parliament, external auditors or the Inspector General Of Government (IGG) to probe the rapid manner in which top university administrators are amassing wealth.

The sources are saying that the government should step in to oversee the use of the monies raised from private students programme.

As the administration of the 83-year-old institution gets tough, Prof. Ssebuwufu has said that he will have to step aside in June when his contract expires.

But sources said that he is under pressure from the staff members. They say he has overstayed.

But Sebuwufu said, “We have not had any missing funds. The IGG has been here to investigate but nothing was found. We are a public institution and are therefore audited by the government.”

He said part of the problem he was facing was that he had advised the university staff to prepare for their retirement, “and that is why people are probably complaining when they see others developing.”

He said the university provides loans for the workers “but it does not mean that whoever has money has stolen it from the university. It is very sad to think like that but I think it is because of our history.”

One head of department said with the money generated from the private student’s programme, the university could afford to build one hall of residence annually, or put up more lecture halls.

The source said if the university erected a perimeter wall, it could help control high rate of thefts and instil discipline in students.

“It is sad to students who pay a lot of money to study while standing because there are no chairs, there are toilet rolls in unclean toilets and the dilapidated staff houses are not being repaired,” the head of department said.

MUASA is adamant about the disparity in earnings.

The issue came up last Friday when a lecturer mentioned that the University Planner, Muhammed Kibirige Mayanja earns sh6m (untaxed) as top-up allowance each month.

A document dated March 30, 2004 and signed by Sam Byanagwa explained that 1,110 employees in the salary scale M1-M10 earn sh19b annually while 2,900 employees in the scale of M11-M15 earn sh5b.

The document, which was drafted following meetings between the central administration and National Union of Educational Institutions (NUEI), pointed out that “there is no standard policy in the university on payment of top-up.

This has resulted in unfair distribution of the top-up among the stakeholders.”

The document mentioned that the highest top-up in halls of residence is sh500,000 while the lowest salary earner gets nothing.

The document says that the highest person in faculty of arts gets over sh1m while the lowest gets sh30,000 per month. The category that does not receive top-up totally are the personnel in security and estates department.

NUEI is asking for an immediate policy to be put in place to manage and consolidate all internally generated funds. It is also asking for the minimal housing allowance to be raised from sh30,000 to sh70,000 monthly.