KENYA: Tussle over university's ownership

Kenya's Ministry of Information and Communications has called for an amicable solution to a damaging tussle between the Communications Commission of Kenya and the Ministry of Higher Education over the ownership of Multimedia University College.

Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio and Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo told a parliamentary committee on energy, communications and information that the issue requires urgent realistic measures for the institution to serve its purpose.

The duo made the revelation when they presented the ministry's printed budgetary estimates of the 2009-10 financial year to the committee chaired by engineer James Rege last week.

Poghisio said the creation of the university college from the original Kenya College of Communications and Technology (KCCT) was done on the premise of boosting its capacity-building in information and communication technology - but the Education Ministry had since then invoked the University Act to claim ownership.

"When we made it a university we did so knowing that there's still a need to have KCCT under the Communications Commission and little did we know that the move would jeopardise assets," said the Minister. Ndemo added that even though the university had been shifted to the other ministry, a formal transfer of assets to the tune of Shs 2.4 billion (US$0.31 billion) had not been done "and this will raise audit questions".

As a result of the confusion surrounding ownership of the university, they told the Rege-led parliamentary committee that a university council is yet to be appointed and at the same time the principal - who was appointed by the Communications Commission to run the institution - lacks full mandate to manage it.

The Multimedia University College was established last year as a constituent college of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, but the persistent wrangling between the two government entities has been delaying its operation as an institution of higher learning.

Meanwhile, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) diploma holders will from September this year have a chance to enrol at the University of Nairobi for a two-year degree programme.

Ndemo announced that the two institutions had entered into a partnership deal to ensure that more programmes are created to fit in the ever-growing media industry, with institute graduates proceeding to degree level as the institution retains its diploma-awarding status.

The Kenya Institute of Mass Communication has a strong reputation and good record in the region in media training and over the years its diploma holders have directly advanced to masters level at the University of Cardiff in the UK.