• John Wanjala headed the Human Resource Department of Murang’a University of Technology. He was dismissed for awarding marks to a female student who had not sat exams — and for omitting a male student from the list.
• The court ruled that his dismissal was fair and his actions were egregious.
Why would a university head of Human Resources go to extraordinary lengths to systematically raise the marks of a female student who didn't pay her tuition or sit her end-of-semester exam?
Court papers don't say, so we can only speculate.
Had John Wekesa Wanjala not been caught, Julia Wanjiru Ndung’u would have graduated — at the expense of a legitimate student Warandah Hempstone Julius — whom Wanjala dropped when he swapped names and scripts.
The Labour Relations Court in Nyeri on November 24 upheld the decision by Muranga University of Technology to sack Wanjala over "examination malpractice" after his plot was revealed.
Nyeri High Court justice Nzioka wa Makau ruled the university had every right to dismiss claimant Wanjala in August last year "for the egregious conduct".
University vice chancellor Dickson Nyariki said the investigation team never established why Wanjala engaged in such malpractice. "The two are not relatives because the first time we invited the student, she failed to show up but her father did," he told the Star.
Wanjala insisted he had been dismissed unfairly and audaciously sought relief in payment for part-time appointments totalling Sh391,500 with interest, accumulated annual leave of Sh962,420.40, payment of Sh77,809,320 on the expectation that he was to be in service of Murang’a University until the retirement age of a lecturer — 72 years.
The court awarded him only one month's compensation of Sh216,137. Wanjala was both head of HR and a lecturer in HR.
He awarded a B to Julia Wanjiru Ndung’u and prepared a new mark sheet in which he listed students who had sat for the examination.
The course was Managing HR Projects.
In his new mark sheet, Wanjala had omitted the name of one male student, Warandah Hempstone Julius, for the marks to tally with the number of scripts submitted for marking. Adding Julia and dropping Warandah.
The social media pages of the three have been inactive.
Wanjala’s otherwise well-orchestrated plan failed at the last step when an external examiner declined to comment on the performance after he realised there was an extra script in the bundle he was given.
Ten employees from the university testified in the case, including the lecturer who invigilated the exams, a lecturer who received a Google prompt of Wanjala’s attempt to login into his account and an IT officer who retrieved the history of the changes made.
Wanjala is suspected to have slipped Wanjiru's script into the bundle that was kept in the exams office, of which he was in charge. Possibly he did not have time to remove Waranda's copy.
The course lecturer was Patricia Muhoro. On examination day, 105 students sat the paper administered and collected by Muhoro.
Muhoro testified that students signed an attendance list. After marking the papers, she prepared a mark sheet with students' names and their marks.
“Wanjiru did not sign the attendance list and in the mark sheet I prepared, her name did not feature either," she said.
After the examination, Muhoro handed over the scripts, mark sheet, the question paper and marking scheme to the school deputy registrar to counter check.
"There were 105 scripts and the mark sheet was signed by Muhoro," the registrar said.
Two administrative assistants in the Office of Quality Assurance — James Nyaga and Francis Njoroge — took the exam script to Nokras Hotel to the external examiner and left the documents in the custody of the hotel management as the examiner had not arrived.
Two days later, on May 30, the two were surprised when Wanjala told them that he and another lecturer had brought back the bundles from the external examiner.
"He instructed Francis Njoroge to offload the exam from the other lecturer's car. This was not the normal procedure as it was the exam office's to collect," Nyaga said.
The quality assurance officer Nyaga said they questioned Wanjala who said since graduation was near, they thought to bring the scripts back. Njoroge, who picked the scripts, also told him that they were loose and not properly tied as they should have been.
Nyagah said that as required they sorted the items out and found an anomaly, a course that went out with number 105 but came back was 106. He stated, "I began investigating and after counter checking the attendance list, I was left with one booklet and belonging to Julia Wanjiru.
"The questions she had responded to were identical but the marking style differed, and so I put it aside," he said.
However, Wanjiru's name was on the mark sheet that had been returned from the external examiner. It was signed LK and countersigned by Wanjala.
Nyaga from the Office of Quality Assurance said on further investigation he discovered from the Accounts office the student Wanjiru had not paid fees.
"So I went to the Registrar’s Office and found that Wanjiru had not signed to nominal roll to allow her to sit the exam as she was not a bona fide student," he said.
When Patricia Muhoro, the course lecturer, confirmed that she does not sign as LK, the matter was reported to the dean who appointed a committee of five people to investigate and report to the deputy vice chancellor.
Prof Prisca Tuitoek, the deputy vice chancellor, said they discovered a number of anomalies noted in the report.
She said they realised the script was not among those of students who sat the exam and the student had not paid fees or signed the nominal roll and thus was not cleared to sit the exam.
The ticks on Wanjiru's script were made at the beginning of the sentence and the other scripts had ticks at the end of the sentence.
"The marking style was different from the other 105 scripts, which were marked differently," Tuitoek said.
She was referred to the student fees statement and stated Wanjiru had a balance of Sh162,000 as of June 8, 2018, and she purportedly sat the exam on April 17, 2019.
In the nominal roll for self-sponsored students in the Bachelor of Commerce course, Wanjiru's name appears yet she did not sign. The nominal roll is signed when a student pays fees and reports for the semester.
"Students are required upon reporting to register and they do so by signing the nominal roll which is signed to indicate their attendance at registration," Tuitoek said.
ICT director Stephen Wanjau said he was asked to retrieve system details of transactions done for a student in the name of the user, Dr John Wekesa Wanjala.
He said there was activity on May 28 at 4.37pm and another on June 11, 2018, when the user entered a mark.
Wanjau said he interrogated the system to see what happened.
He stated that the screenshot captured the date, the time stamp was 16.37 hours and showed the mark input. It showed the user who entered the system and entered an exam mark on May 27, 2018.
The user was Dr Wanjala.
Wanjala began updating marks for Julia Wanjiru from 12.21pm, making an update for the same student on June 7, 2018, at 4.15pm.
ICT boss Wanjau stated that on June 11, 2018, the user also deleted marks for the same student, a CAT mark at 5.18pm.
He stated that on October 1, 2017, Wanjala updated Wanjiru's record on different subjects, adjusting the marks upwards for subjects that would have kept Wanjiru from graduating.
Prof Clifford Getaro Machogu, whose car was used to pick the scripts from the external examination, said Wanjala confessed to him that he had signed as LK.
Later, he received an alert showing someone tried to hack his email. He stated that the attempt was made near Mombasa and it gave a name — John Wanjala.
"The signal came to my email showing someone had tried to log into my email and that was unethical and wrong. I recommended disciplinary action against him," he said.
Wanjiru who was called by the school said Wanjala called her on a Sunday and she took the exam in a tuition block on a Monday, about two weeks after the exams invigilated by the same lecturer.
In his defence, Wanjala said he entered Wanjiru's marks after investigation of missing marks where he established that there was a script for a student in the examination office that had not been captured in the ICT system.
He then entered the marks into ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, as the 'chairman' of the department who is the chief examination officer.
(Edited by V. Graham)