A human rights activist has asked the EACC to investigate Meru university Vice Chancellor Romanus Odhiambo on allegations of graft and abuse of office.
Mr Salesio Mutuma, in a three-page document presented to the EACC’s Upper Eastern region office in Isiolo County on Friday, called for a probe over the alleged irregular award of contracts and unfair recruitment of staff at the Meru University of Science and Technology.
The Meru-based activist also wants three companies recently awarded contracts for construction of a modern laboratory, library and administration/tuition block investigated, claiming they were not selected competitively.
Mr Mutuma alleged that the three were among the highest bidders and that the quoted amount for the one awarded the laboratory work – Sh258 million, -was higher than the lowest bid, which he claimed was Sh98 million.
He further claimed that a company with a pending court case (Civil Case 501 of 2013 and Miscellaneous EL 32 of 2019) was awarded a tender at the institution contrary to procurement provisions.
The activist further accused the VC of recently recruiting, from outside the county, a senior administrative officer, chief security officer, internal auditor and a legal officer, positions that should have been filled through internal staff promotions.
The probe, he said, should also delve into the recent transfer of the head of procurement to the library department and alleged recruitment of another person without adherence to the due legal process.
Mr Mutuma also claimed that Sh13 million set aside for research by students and lecturers was used to employ a sabbatical lecturer and that no research has been done.
“Ordinarily, such arrangements are done when the university lacks the expertise on the area of research in question,” he said.
“I pray that a thorough probe be undertaken so that the law takes its course against the culpable individuals involved in misuse of public funds and abuse of office at the university.”
The EACC’s Upper Eastern region Deputy Director, Mr George Ojowi, acknowledged receiving the report and assured that a review would commence immediately.
“We will review the issues raised (by a Meru resident) and if there are areas in which we need to carry out further investigations, we will do so,” said Mr Ojowi.
He appealed to the public to exercise its legal duty to report cases of graft and unethical conduct and promised they will be handled expeditiously.
Meru University VC’s response
Reached for comment, the VC dismissed the allegations, terming them a scheme to tarnish his good image.
He said companies that were among the lowest bidders were eliminated in the preliminary stages of tendering and maintained that the legal process was followed.
Regarding changes in the procurement department, the don said they were occasioned by rampant graft at the institution a year after he took over as VC.
“I sacked seven officers at the procurement department in 2019 following serious corruption. They did not even move to court to challenge the decision because they were at the centre of the vice,” he said.
On employing a sabbatical lecturer, Prof Odhiambo said there was an urgent need for a PhD holder to assist in the computing and informatics department and that he was employed after an advertisement was placed in the dailies.
“It is allowed in law to employ a sabbatical lecturer (for nine months). When we advertised for a senior lecturer’s position, he applied and qualified,” he noted.
He further said the Sh13 million research money could not be used as learning institutions were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and said it was intact.
The don said the head of Procurement was moved to the library department over “politics at the department” and that she was tasked with procurement work at the new office.
The recruitment of the chief administrative officers had the blessing from the University’s Council, he added.
“MUST is not a Meru university but a national university. People can come from any part of the country as long as they are qualified and can impact the community,” the VC said.