Business and Finance
MPs reject new universities’ law
By Henry Ssekanjako and Henry Mukasa
Parliament has rejected a proposed new legislation for the appointment of heads of public universities calling it a myopic, one-off ritualistic event and attempt to solve a problem akin to Makerere University while leaving out pertinent issues afflicting higher education.
Faced with a rejected by the committee of Social Services and a chorus of disapproval from several legislators, stand in state minister for Sports, Charles Bakkabulindi was left with no option apart from withdrawing the Bill.
The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2011 suffered a still birth from the on set when Dr Sam Lyomoki, who chairs the social services committee, read a critical report.
“The Bill is grossly inadequate, and fails to bring on board all the necessary adjustments that are required to improve the systems and functioning of public universities,” Lyomoki stated.
“The scenario that the Bill attempts to cure, namely stalemate in Makerere, is being addressed under the existing legal framework and the committee doesn’t agree that the proposed Bill, in the current form, is the solution,” he added asking fellow MPs to reject the passage of the bill into law.
Lyomoki noted that the ministry had ignored several proposals by the Visitation Committee that was appointed by the President in March 2006.
Coupled with that while the ministry was pushing for the law for the minister to appoint a VC for Makerere, the committee reported, the search for a new VC of Makerere was on.
The ministers of Education told the committee that a departure from that system was because elective process breeds factions and in some instances are hinged largely on vested interests. However the committee rejected the explanation saying the Senate, Search Committee and University Council involved in identifying the Vice Chancellor cannot lack the capabilities and understanding to comprehend the strategic direction of a university.
Moreover, the committee observed, the ministry had not listed shortfalls in the successful tenure of Livingstone Luboobi as Makerere Vice Chancellor, to necessitate the amendment. The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act was enacted in 2001. It was amended in 2003 and again in 2006 and this would be the third revision of the law.
Minister Bakkabulindi had explained that the ministry has had problems on how the Vice Chancellors and deputy Vice Chancellors for public universities are recruited. “We thought it was a matter of urgency to harmonise how they are recruited because it’s a reason for problems in some universities,” Bakkabulindi noted.
However, MPs in a barrage criticism to the ministry hailed the social services committee for a “succinct and bold” report, some accusing the ministry for adding to the confusion at Makerere University. Francis Epetait (FDC) pointed out that the Bill ignores the over independence of University Council which makes ministry regulation difficult and doing “a target specific.”
William Kwemara (NRM) accused the ministry of trying to use a law to cure a management problem. He said Makerere, like other universities of the world, was drifting towards an autonomous college with Principals, yet the new Bill overlooks it.
Alex Ruhunda (NRM) observed that the reasons given by the ministry for the Bill are dismal and asked the minister to withdraw it and bring a comprehensive one. At this juncture, Bakkabulindi stepped forward and offered “to save Parliament’s time.” “I saw the report in the morning and knew the debate will be biased. I beg to withdraw the Bill,” Bakkabulindi stated.
Alex Ndezi (NRM) and deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah prodded the minister to apologise to wasted time but he stopped at appreciating the social services committee for its work and time.