Prof Barnabas Nawangwe is set to seek another term as Makerere University Vice Chancellor. Nawangwe is serving his fifth and final year as the institution’s CEO after being appointed in 2017.
Section 31(4) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act stipulates that the Vice Chancellor shall be appointed on terms and conditions determined by the University Council for five years and shall be eligible for re-appointment for one more term.
Whereas procedures allow him to seek another term, age is not on his side since he is 65 years old. His allies are inquiring whether the age limit can be circumvented. The plan is reportedly to have a friendly search committee which can tilt things a bit in his favour. And this has happened before. During the 2012 search process that saw Prof John Dumba Ssentamu become VC and Prof Venansius Baryamureeba kicked out, the age limit was put between 40-60 years for applicants.
However, during the 2017 VC search process that brought in Prof Nawangwe, they changed it from to between 40-65 years. Nawangwe allies feel this time it can be changed from 65 to at least 68 or so.
Nawangwe allies are consulting on whether his tenure can automatically be renewed or extended without going through a search process. This option, though it may block other potential candidates, is also reportedly being examined. Those pushing for it reason that the VC’s stellar performance should be rewarded.
They are also reasoning that Covid-19 pandemic has eaten into his time which needs to be compensated with an automatic renewal of his contract. These and many other options are being examined by Nawangwe allies to see him serve a second term.
The staff is also unhappy with Prof. Nawangwe led administration which has set a record of running an institution of Makerere caliber without a substantive Deputy vice chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration (DVC (F&A)) for four years which they see as incompetence.
Under Nawangwe’s tenure, most of the top University management jobs have been occupied in acting capacity. The best practice is that top management gets to know of the impending vacancy, plan and have it advertised on good time so that the day the incumbent leaves there is a competitively recruited successor to immediately take charge.
Many Nawangwe critics have been wondering why this isn’t being done by his administration yet Makerere is supposed to be a model of excellence for the rest of the country to emulate on many of these matters. The institution has spent four years without a substantive DVC (F&A). Here is what happened. The DVC (F&A) search process started in 2018 but the process was flouted as evidenced in the court ruling of June 2019 on the instigation of one of the candidates Prof Anthony Mugisha.
On the 14th of June 2019, court quashed the appointment of Prof. William Bazeyo as DVC F&A. Court also ordered the repeat of the search process. This was after the court finding that the process had been flawed. Instead of repeating the search process and filling up the position, Makerere University decided to re-appoint Prof. William Bazeyo in acting capacity.
After waiting for over six months Prof Mugisha on the 17th of December 2019 lodged an application in the High Court for contempt of court (MISC APPN No. 848, 2019).
To comply with the court order, at a special meeting on the 19th of February 2020, Council directed Senate to repeat the search process. And in June after waiting for over four months, an advert was run in the media for a whole month (June-July).
In response to the advert, four candidates applied, that is Prof Mugisha, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dr. Allan Katwalo Mulengani and Dr. Eddie Ekakooro.
After sieving through applicants papers, only three were shortlisted and were invited for face to face interviews and later invited to public presentations. The shortlisted applicants were Prof Mugisha, Prof. William Bazeyo and Dr. Allan Katwalo Mulengani.
On the 7th of August 2020, an invitation was sent out for special Senate slated for Friday the 14th of August 2020 to consider the search report. However on the 11th of August 2020 a day after public presentations, a circular was sent out to Senators cancelling the Senate Meeting that was earlier called to consider the search report. During that period, everyone was waiting for a report to be presented to Senate with three applicants who had successfully gone through the search process, that is, Prof. William Bazeyo, Prof. Anthony Mugisha and Assoc. Prof. Allan Katwalo Mulengani. Senate should have selected one name through voting as it has always been the practice, recommend the name to Chancellor for appointment with approval of Council.
After two months of waiting, on the 8th of October 2020 Prof Bazeyo resigned from acting in the position of DVC (F&A) and withdrew from the search process citing personal and family reasons. Instead of presenting the report to Senate for voting on the two remaining applicants, Senate was informed that it could not discuss the search report since the term of the search committee had expired. And also that court had ordered that five names had to be submitted to Senate which was not true.
After shunting Senate, management presented a report in Council which sat on the 27th of October 2020. The management report had a section on the search for DVC (F &A) and the resignation of Prof. Bazeyo. The search of the DVC is a business of Senate and not management. In the report of Management to Council, no reason was given as to why Special Senate was postponed indefinitely.
Instead of completing the search process, and appoint a substantive Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Administration), on the 11th of November, Dr. Josephine Nabukenya was appointed in acting capacity and she has been acting up to today.
On the 6th of November 2020, the Ag. University Secretary sent out a letter to the Academic Registrar instructing him to repeat the search process including re-advertising the position for the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Administration
Court on 22nd of January, 2021 stopped the repeat of the search process for the DVC (F&A) for the third time, and the Judge counseled the Makerere University lawyers to advise their bosses to do what is right by completing the earlier search process which was halted without any sound reason.