Makerere University and government have set up several committees/ visitations all aimed at finding out the problems and challenges facing Makerere University. But its as if we never ever want to implement the solutions.
For example, how can a search committee spend tax payers’ money and at the end of the day produce a sham report that is used to guide Senate and Council in the selection of the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University? I will provide evidence in their report in what follows.
On page 6 of the report, the committee states that the scores for each stage were done independently and kept aside before moving to the next stage. The final scores were compiled later. Also in the executive summary of the report on page iii the committee states that the scores for each candidate were done independently and securely kept before moving to the next stage and the final scores were compiled at the end of the process.
This approach has a major shortfall where the process lacks quality control and the scores are left to each individual to award as they wish. At the end of each stage, the committee would have looked at the scores of each assessor for all the candidates and if there was a major variation or outlier it would have been addressed at this stage.
This was not done. Also keeping results in sealed envelopes or under key and lock does not eliminate tampering with the results. Duplicate keys can be made or their can be collusion.
The best way is to look at the results after each stage and confirm with signed minutes. We must also know that some members of the search committee were not neutral and had a candidate they were supporting and hence the need to moderate the results at the end of each stage.
This is evidenced by the serious campaigning and voting in Senate to select the members of the search committee. The same can be said of Council members on the search committee. Hence the methodology used did not ensure a fair, transparent, competitive process and best possible outcome.
Results in Table 4 are on assessment of candidates’ application documents. What is normally the practice is to assess these documents jointly and agree on a common score. For example, all members should have looked at a letter of reference and agree on the score to award.
What happened is that each assessor was left to do the assessment independently and as result different scores were given by different assessors. There was no modulation to remove outliers.
For example, Assessor5 gave Prof. Baryamureeba 58 and Prof. Nawangwe 87 a difference of 29 marks which is major deviation and way outside a margin of error since all the assessors were given the same documents. This and other outliers in this table gave Prof. Nawangwe an advantage over the other candidates.
This is clear evidence that the process on assessment of candidates’ application documents was flawed and cannot stand yet it contributed 30 marks to the overall total. The committee should have jointly assessed the documents using the scoring criteria on page 20 to 24 of the report which was not the case.
Table 5 is on face-to-face interviews scores. On Page 25 of the report there is a tool for face-to-face interviews with questions. There was no consistency in asking these questions across the candidates.
Like in my case most of the questions were rephrased and thus the answers had to be different and there was rejoinder questions and various interjections. All the candidates should have been asked the same questions verbatim, which was not the case.
Hence the methodology used here did not ensure a fair, transparent, competitive process and best possible outcome yet this part was carrying 50 marks of the overall total.
The evidence for the above is that the search committee should produce the recording for the face-to-face interviews and not notes or written transcript. So once again the results for face-to-face interviews can not stand.
You need to know that when on Sunday 14th May 2017, a day before the deadline for application for the position of Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Hon Thomas Tayebwa, a member of Makerere University Council told me that I was wasting my time to apply for the Vice Chancellor position.
That Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe was to be ranked number 1 in the search committee report and that it was done deal for Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe to come as out of the search process as the best candidate.
I did take his statements seriously. On another occasion he repeated the same statements and I assured him that if the search committee report points to pre-awarded marks I will seek judicial review.
So on 2nd June 2017, I sent this message to the Secretary of the Search Committee: ‘’There is talk going on that some members of the search committee want to rig the process in favour of Nawangwe. I advise that you record the face to face interviews and the pubic presentations so that you have a permanent record to safe guard the integrity of the search committee’’.
The the face-to face interviews were held on 6th June 2017 and so the search committee must have the audio recording of the interviews. I was also not surprised by the urgency the report was presented to Council after Senate within less than 24 hours and then followed by congratulatory messages to Prof. Nawangwe even before the Chancellor can issue an appointment instrument. All this points to some mischief?
Table 6 is on public presentation and joint debate scores. On page 6 of the search committee report they state that in all the three stages, the face-to-face interviews offered the only opportunity for the search committee to interact with and interrogate the candidates.
So I can assume that the questions that came from the moderators/ experts (Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology and Vice Chancellor of Muni University) were set by them.
The other questions came from the audience and the candidates. Almost every senior person who understand higher education matters I talked to said that Prof. Nawangwe lost the pubic presentation and joint debate miserably.
But again he emerges as the best candidate here too by the search committee. This raises serious fundamental questions. For example, did all the members of the search committee know the answers to the questions that were being asked?
If Nawangwe used over 15 minutes talking about himself, what did the search committee access on the part of the presentation that made him turn out as the best candidate? Recently in a primary school I don’t want to mention, a teacher was marking right answers in Mathematics wrong until when another teacher came in to revise with the students that the situation was rectified.
Thus, the search committee should avail the assessment that was done by the experts (the two Vice Chancellors) so that we can compare with the scores of the search committee above. But again since the video for the public presentation and joint debate is available this can also be re-assessed by independent experts.
In summary, when any one assesses the scores in the search committee report you can easily observe a partner of pre-awarded scores and a deliberate effort to make Prof. Nawangwe the best candidate at each stage including the public presentation and joint debate were he faired miserably.
Also there is a striking coincidence of assessor1 and assessor4 giving Prof. Baryamureeba the same mark in Table 5 and Table 6. When you also look at the occurrence of 77, 72 and 75 in Table 6 all point to the possibility of collusion in awarding marks. With several areas being assessed in both Table 5 and Table 6, its very unlikely for a small sample of 5 assessors to have such similarities.
The other issue that comes out clearly is whether the Search Committee had the right mix of experts with experience in searching for a Vice Chancellor. The evidence points to the negative.
Even the letter of 6th June 2017 from the Chairperson of the Search Committee had caused alarm: It stated that Accordingly, you are informed that the shortlisted candidates are: 1. Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe 2. Prof. Edward Kasujja Kirumira 3. Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba. Normally such information is indicated in alphabetical order or you state that in no particular order…. People started to get concerned that is the process was being rigged? But we cooled them down.
The motive in all this was to ensure Prof. Nawangwe emerges as the best candidate with Prof. Baryamureeba as the worst but also with a huge margin so that Prof. Baryamureeba’s possible voters in council can be convinced to give up on voting for the worst candidate. And it worked. But this kind of injustice cannot be allowed to stand in Uganda’s premier University.
The good thing the recordings for the face-to-face interviews, public presentation and joint debate exist plus all the submitted documents. So an independent committee or organ can look into this matter and propose a way forward for the good of Makerere University. I am someone who will never allow unfairness and injustice to prevail.
So I request the relevant authorities to take this matter seriously. Since the VC search report informed and influenced Senate and Council in taking the decision to recommend Prof. Nawangwe to the Chancellor for appointment, its important that the Chancellor stays the appointment until all these and other issues that are being raised are thoroughly addressed by a competent organ other than Makerere University Council.
The media as a fourth estate should get a copy of the Makerere University VC Search Committee Report 2017 and do a thorough analysis and publish it to inform the public since Makerere University is a public University.
Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, PhD
Candidate for the Vice Chancellor Position of Makerere University, 2017