Some of us that are knowledgeable about some of these challenges are willing to provide support to the university council
By Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba
It is normal for a university as big as Makerere to be challenged in terms of its governance and management systems.
The university council as per Section 40 (2) (a) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 as amended, herein referred to as the Act, is responsible for the direction of the academic, administrative and financial affairs of the university.
Fortunately, Makerere University has a new governance council that should be able to begin from a clean plate. The chairperson and vice-chairperson of the university council, Lorna Magara and Daniel Fred Kidega, respectively, are highly respected and accomplished citizens with the capacity to steer the Makerere University council to greatness.
I have also seen the list of university council members and these are excellent councillors.
So, all stakeholders of Makerere University should give the current council the benefit of time and support, to address Makerere University’s outstanding governance and management challenges.
Some of us that are knowledgeable about some of these challenges are willing to provide support the university council may require to enable them sort out key university challenges. So in this article I will point out a few of these challenges. Let me begin with governance challenges.
Some of the governance challenges emanate from having some council members overstaying on the council and entrenching themselves to influence the governance and management of the university to their own financial benefit.
The education ministry has set an excellent precedent by appointing only persons who have not served more than two terms on the Makerere University council as its representatives.
Let the current council work along these lines to come up with a council charter that limits the term of all members of council to a maximum of two terms. The council charter should also provide for qualifications and experience of all council members and for key positions, including chairpersons of council committees.
Let me provide an example of the appointments board. As per Section 50 (3) of the Act, the appointments board shall, except where provided otherwise under this Act, be responsible to the university council for the appointment, promotion, removal from service and discipline of all officers and staff of the academic and administrative service of the university, as may be determined by the university council.
It goes without saying that the chairperson of such a board has to be purposefully and carefully selected.
Section 43 (1) of the Act provides that the university council may appoint committees and boards consisting of such number of its members and other persons as it may deem necessary and that it may appoint one of the members of a committee to be the chairperson of that committee.
So, the chairperson of the appointments board does not even have to be a member of the university council.
Most of the governance and management problems relating to staff have been as a result of having a weak appointments board.
For example, how can the appointments board keep staff on suspension for more than two years? How can the appointments board reduce salaries of staff in post yet this should be person to holder?
All these were done in total contravention of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Act and the Employment Act. Section 39 (2) of the Act provides that the chairperson and vice chairperson shall hold office for a period of four years and shall be eligible for re-election for one more term.
So even without having a charter limiting the term office of other members of council to two, the council should invoke Section 38 (5) (b) to request the particular office or body by virtue of which that person became a member of the university council to recall and replace members of the current university council that have served more than two terms.
On management challenges, I would like to state that being a Professor does not necessarily mean that the person can be an excellent vice chancellor or deputy vice chancellor.
That is why other members of top management with specific technical skills such as human resource skills, financial management skills and legal skills are appointed to support the top leadership of the university.
The council, in the short term, needs to interest itself in the management of the university and ensure that top managers work through middle level managers.
In short, the technical advice of middle level managers should be seen to be taken seriously by top level managers. This will eliminate most of the management challenges at Makerere University.
Otherwise, as of today, some of the top managers of Makerere University are very vindictive and operate like village chiefs.
In the long term, the university council should develop performance management benchmarks and an appraisal system where top managers are appraised by all categories of staff on specific issues concerning each category of staff.
Where the council is convinced that a vice chancellor or deputy vice-chancellor is overly incompetent, then it should be able to invoke Section 55 (1) of the Act without having to wait for someone to serve out his or her term as has been the practice.
For instance, why would a university suspend a staff without evidence and a staff remains on suspension for more than two years in total contravention of the employment act and the Universities and other tertiary institutions act 2001 as amended.
The writer is a former vice-chancellor of Makerere University