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Probe under way as Balunywa is accused of paying ‘ghost’ professors

For the third time in one month, the IGG has accused, Wasswa Balunywa, the Principal of Makerere University Business School, of victimising senior academic staff.

The Deputy IGG, Raphael Baku, first wrote to the Minister of Education, Geraldine Namirembe Bitamazire, on October 24, 2008, stating that four lecturers fired by Balunywa in 2005 had been expelled unfairly and illegally. The minister had asked the IGG’s office to investigate the matter, after the sacked lecturers; Peter Turyakira, Deus Muhwezi, Henry Mbidde and Onesmus Mugyenyi, petitioned her to intervene.

However, as the Baku was putting final touches on his report, Balunywa dismissed more academic staff, this time very senior ones.
Three deans; Dr. James Akampumuza (Dean Faculty of Commerce), Dr. Isaac Nkote (Head of Finance Department), and Dr. Eddy Kuroboza Tukamushaba (Head of Leisure and Hospitality) were fired last month.

The trio appealed to the IGG who in a letter to the Chairman of the MUBS Council, Dr. Colin Sentongo, last month ordered the School to reinstate them.
In his October 30 memo, Baku, accused Balunywa of usurping powers of the MUBS Appointments Board, the Education Service Commission and the electoral powers of staff who are supposed to elect their faculty and departmental heads.
“It is hereby directed that the Deans and Heads of Department duly appointed by the Appointments Board of MUBS should continue in office until the matter is either resolved by the Appointments Board and Council of MUBS to the satisfaction of all concerned parties or conclusion of this investigation and directions from this office,” Baku ordered.

But MUBS has stuck to its guns. On November 3 Sentongo wrote to Baku saying the sackings were legitimate and were “done in good faith.”
He said that MUBS is presently governed “on Cabinet directives,” and told off the IGG that he is quoting irrelevant laws that MUBS has previously contested.

“Unfortunately, the various laws that you quote are conflicting as you [may] appreciate when you study them closely.”
One such law concerns the Principal’s powers.
Baku says that apart from the Principal who is appointed by the Chancellor under the Makerere University (Establishment of Constituent College) order no.77 of 1997, “all the other officers and employees of the school shall be appointed by the Appointments Board.”
Sentongo differs. He said deans and heads of department are appointed by the Appointments Board and Council, at the initiation of the Principal.

Sources at MUBS indicate that apart from the three deans, Balunywa is also planning to sack his deputy, Dr. Julius Kakuru, under the guise of subjecting him to interviews by the Education Service Commission which the IGG says has no mandate to appoint a deputy principal.
It is said that Balunywa wants Kakuru replaced by Dr. Samuel Sejjaaka who is currently Director of the Graduate Research Centre.
Baku acknowledged receipt of Sentongo’s letter. He said he had written back reiterating his earlier position.

“It is up to them to enforce, if not we will catch up with them,” he said.

Under probe

Before the matter of the three deans came to light, the IGG had just dealt with the dons fired in 2005.
Petitioning the Minister of Education, the fired lecturers had accused Balunywa of tribalism, corruption and double standards.
They alleged that he had created 48 ‘ghost’ professors on the payroll and was hounding Banyankore-Bakiga out of the institution and appointing more Basoga, his tribes-mates.
The lecturers further pointed out that Balunywa, whose main reason advanced for their dismissal was failure to complete their studies in time, had himself failed to complete his PhD in almost a decade. Balunywa was pursuing the PhD at the University of Stirling in Scotland and it’s not clear what his status there is right now.
The sackings have prompted the IGG to call for investigations into the general mismanagement of MUBS.

“You are hereby informed that we have undertaken investigations into the above complaints and that of general mismanagement at the school,” reads the IGG’s letter to Sentongo.
The letter is copied to the Principal, the Minister of Education and Chancellor of Makerere University.

Turyakira, Muhwezi, Mbidde and Mugyenyi said their dismissal was an attempt to silence the MUBS Academic Staff Association (MUBASA) for which the four senior officials. Turyakira served as Chairman, Muhwezi as Publicist, Mbidde as Vice Chairman and Mugyenyi as Legal Officer of the association that advocates for the lecturers’ interests.

In effect, the IGG’s August 2008 report accuses the Principal, Appointments Board and School Council of illegally dismissing these lecturers.

Ghost professors

The IGG report notes that in September 2004, Turyakira and Muhwezi wrote to Balunywa, seeking clarification on the pay structure and distribution of Shs 342 million meant for staff salaries.

They also accused him of paying this amount to 48 non-existent professors, associate professors and senior lecturers. Their contention was that Balunywa pocketed this money.
The lecturers further complained about irregularities in their NSSF staff remittances, denial of annual leave, and Balunywa’s usurpation of powers to recruit and fire academic staff.
In his report, the IGG agreed that the sackings had targeted lecturers critical of Balunywa.
Baku noted, for instance, that some dismissed lecturers, like Pontius Byarugaba, were reinstated because of their loyalty to Balunywa,
“One therefore cannot help but wonder what yardstick MUBS used to accept some cases and yet reject others.”

With no response from Balunywa, the lecturers reported their grievances to the MUBS School Council who formed a committee to review the salary debate.
This ignited bad blood between the dons and the Principal, leading to their dismissal. Bitamazire declined to comment saying she was out of office.
“I haven’t been in office, the letters you are talking about may be on my table, but I need to first see them if they are there before I comment”.

In the same letter, Baku tells the minister: “It is our considered opinion that the circumstances under which the four staff were forced to leave MUBS were administratively questionable and in some respects were legally contestable.”
Balunywa had earlier claimed that some two lecturers wrote to Bitamazire in their individual capacities and not as MUBASA leaders.
To support this, he attached a letter signed by 29 MUBASA members, distancing themselves from Turyakira and Muhwezi’s memos.
However, the IGG rejected his defence, saying MUBASA had 145 members therefore 29 dissenting members were indeed a minority.
“This therefore meant that the letter relied upon by the Principal wasn’t reflective of the majority of MUBASA.”

The IGG therefore concluded that Turyakira and Muhwezi’s memos to Bitamazire didn’t warrant a dismissal as they had acted within their mandate as MUBASA leaders.
“Their action was not barred by any law or regulation. MUBS could not therefore base a decision to dismiss them on that ground.”
The IGG also pointed out that concerns by Muhwezi and Turyakira, like non-remittance of their NSSF savings, “continued to persist almost for two years after they had been dismissed.” The IGG referred to media reports that included MUBS amongst employers defaulting on NSSF remittances in July 2007.

“This being the case, it was unfortunate that the School Council accepted that the complainant’s grievances were malicious and baseless.”

Inconsistencies
 
On Mbidde and Mugyenyi, the IGG said that variations between Balunywa’s justification for their dismissal and the Appointments Board’s stated reason were inconsistent.
Balunywa said Mbidde’s dismissal was because of failure to renew his contract while the Appointments Board said it was because of students’ poor evaluation of his teaching ability.

“These inconsistencies led us to believe that Mbidde and Mugyenyi may have been victimised on account of their executive membership of MUBASA.”
He added: “We couldn’t find any sufficient grounds to support the decisions taken by MUBS Appointments Board and School Council with regard to the four lecturers.”

Mugyenyi had also challenged his removal from the payroll in June 2005 for reportedly not completing his master’s programme on time. But he argued that as a former staff of Nakawa College of Business Studies, the precursor of MUBS, he was automatically absorbed as a staff member.
The IGG agreed with Mugyenyi who was appointed lecturer in October 1994 and cited discrimination, noting that other terminated staff had been reinstated despite failure to complete their master’s programmes.

“This was not a renewable contract in the sense of MUBS’ contention…The issue therefore was never whether Mugyenyi failed to renew his contract on time but rather whether he was given a fair chance to apply for a new contract as a lecturer upon the completion of his studies.”

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