Revealed: Audit exposes tribal hiring in 21 universities

Pattern of dominant community where university is domiciled getting lion’s share of the jobs.

In Summary
  • Kenyatta University is among the top-ranking institutions that have breached the law.
  • At Maseno University, the payroll for June 2022 revealed that out of the 1,131 employees, 721 were Luos.
The entry gate of the Garissa University
The entry gate of the Garissa University

University managers are on the spotlight for perpetuating ethnic-based recruitment, with a new report exposing how the institutions have violated the law on equal employment opportunities.

The audit has put at least 21 public universities at the centre of the vice, including in the hiring of top managers.

The revelations by Auditor General Nancy Gathungu point to a pattern of the dominant community where the university is domiciled getting the lion’s share of the jobs.

“In the circumstances, management of the 21 universities were in breach of the law,” the Auditor General says in a review of universities’ accounts as of June 30, 2022.

The law does not allow a single community to hold more than 33 per cent of jobs in any single government entity.

Section 7(2) of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008, provides that "no public establishment shall have more than one-third of its staff members from one ethnic community."

Kenyatta University is among the top-ranking institutions that have breached the law.

The report shows that the university has employed 1,185 Kikuyus, accounting for 42 per cent of the institution’s work force.

This leaves only 1,661 jobs to be shared by all the other communities.

Despite the violation having consistently been raised, the university's top brass has made no effort to correct it.

“Further, management recruited 61 staff members during the year under review [2022] out of which 25, or 41 per cent, were from one community while 36 were from nine communities,” the Auditor General said.

Other universities mentioned adversely in the report are Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kibabii, Rongo, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Dedan Kimathi and Kaimosi.

Also flagged for breach of the law are Meru, Maseno, Moi, Machakos, Garissa, Murang’a, Eldoret, Bomet, Alupe, Taita Taveta, Maasai Mara, and Turkana.

At Kibabii, Luhyas took up 75 per cent of the jobs.

Of the 430 employees - both teaching and non-teaching on permanent and pensionable terms – there were 324 Luhyas.

“This was contrary to the provisions of the law,” Gathungu pointed out.

Luhyas, largely the Samia, also dominated jobs at Alupe University. At least 38 per cent of staff were drawn from this community.

The story is the same at Taita Taveta University, where Taitas hold 37 per cent of the jobs.

Gathungu further reveals her audit established that Friends University Kaimosi had Luhyas taking up 67 per cent of the workforce.

At the time of the audit, the university had 209 staff out of whom 141 were from the dominant community within the county.

At Maseno University, the payroll for June 2022 revealed that out of the 1,131 employees, 721 were Luos.

Luos also took up 73 per cent of jobs at Rongo University, being 311 staffers, contrary to the law which provides that all public establishments shall seek to represent the diversity of the people of Kenya in the employment of staff.

At Homa Bay’s Tom Mboya University College, the audit found that 66 per cent of the 90 employees were also Luos.

“In the circumstances, management was in breach of the law.”

Kirinyaga University’s 259 employees had more Kikuyus - at 71 per cent - while the other communities shared the rest.

Kikuyus also dominated jobs at Dedan Kimathi University with 363 employees – about 66 per cent - coming from Mt Kenya region.

The situation was no different at Murang'a where 60 per cent of the 318 staffers were from the Kikuyu community.

Gathungu also flagged the case of Meru University where 263 [65 per cent] of the 406 employees were from the dominant ethnic community.

Kisiis also dominated the workforce of Kisii University at 70 per cent and has been called out for breach of the law in the ensuing circumstances.

The pattern was no different at Moi University amid revelations that 1,549 or 62 per cent of the 2,500 were Kalenjins.

At the University of Eldoret, 57 per cent of the 1,169 workers – 662 - were also from the Kalenjin community.

Kalenjins also dominated the job slots at Bomet University College at 45 per cent, while 28 that were recruited in the year under review had seven from the dominant ethnic group.

About 60 per cent of the Machakos University staffers were also found to be from the neighbouring Kamba community.

While the university had 482 employees at the time of audit, 290 were from one ethnic community while Garissa University had staff of Somali origin at 60 per cent.

At least 125 of the 208 staff members of the North Eastern-based university were from the dominant community in the county.

JKUAT had 45 per cent of its 2,583 members of staff, resulting in 12 percentage points above the 33 per cent threshold.

“In addition, the University Management recruited 24 staff members during the year under review, out of which twelve (12) or 50 per cent were from one community,” Gathungu said.

At Maasai Mara, the locals accounted for 35 per cent of the 622 members of staff, the same being the case at Turkana University where locals occupied 35 per cent.

A recent report by the Public Service Commission on compliance with the balance of tribes in public service flagged communities that were overrepresented.

The report revealed the Kikuyu and Kalenjin — who have held the presidency since Independence — were grossly overrepresented.

Overall, the Kikuyu and Kalenjin held at least 51,994 and 43,983 jobs in government, respectively.

The Luo, who are the fourth-largest ethnic group, had 29,594 government jobs.

The Kisiis, the report showed, commanded seven per cent of the civil service jobs in the period ending on December 31, 2023.

As a result, PSC is seeking to stop ministries, state departments and agencies from recruiting dominant tribes until an optimum ethnic balance is achieved.

The Public Service Commission (Affirmative Action) Regulations, 2024 state dominant tribes would only be considered after those that are grossly underrepresented are hired.

The commission says it would recommend the underrepresented communities be given a free pass [recruited non-competitively] to the state jobs.

“Where a compliance audit establishes underrepresentation, the Commission may recommend the public body appoints or promotes persons in the special interest group without undue reliance on fair competition or merit,” the regulations read.

The special rule would apply where a community is not adequately represented in appointments and promotions in the public service or at public institutions – including universities.

It would also apply where the balance of gender is biased towards one gender and where an ethnic community is disproportionately represented.

A report by the National Assembly National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity Committee also exposed how parastatal bosses have flooded their entities with their tribesmen.

It revealed that five communities – Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya, Luo and Kamba – hold most of the jobs at state agencies.

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