By Martin M. Lwanga
Mbale University Vice Chancellor, Prof John Mbaine, had a pressing problem and he knew he had to act. For some time, he had been receiving reports that a senior management member of staff, the University Academic Registrar (AR), Dr. David Mpata was experiencing revolt from his staff largely because of poor management practices.
Professor Mbaine had no doubt concerning Dr Mbaine’s academic competence. He was a well-established economist with publications in peer journals worldwide. But when it came to running a department as important as the Academic Registrar he often wondered if the don was up to task. Some of the allegations he had received imputed harassment, victimisation, intimidation, favouritism, etc. After pondering overt the matter, with allegations pouring in almost everyday, he appointed a Commission of inquiry on June 2nd 2000 into allegations against the Academic Registrar.
The commission, which was headed by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Akiki Kisembo, and had four other committee members from Faculties of Social Sciences, Law, Medicine, and Zoology, quickly got down to business. During a two- week period it held open-air meetings where staff came and gave their views. The last person to be interviewed was the Dr Mbaine himself who defended himself vehemently against all the claims.
On July 14, 2000, the commission submitted its report to the Vice- Chancellor and here are some of its findings;
Lack of a clear policy on allowances
It was reported that members of staff were entitled to extra- workload allowance if they performed duties beyond ordinary working hours. However, the commission found there was this was not followed. Payments were done in a discriminatory manner, with the AR deciding on rates individually or ignoring certain claims without reasons. Staff members found this very discouraging.
Lack of Professional Respect
It was reported that the AR had the habit of shouting and belittling staff, openly insulting staff members in presence of others. For instance, once he had called his deputy, “Rotten from head to foot. A small boy.” He had also the habit of questioning member’s qualifications. When the Commission queried with the AR about this behaviour he answered, “he was just frank and motivated by desire to achieve results.”
They were allegation of sexual harassment and of sexual relations with some junior members of staff. One staff member reported that the AR had at one time “described her physical form” in a very unflattering manner.” It was alleged that the AR had affairs with a spectrum of female staff, student and other people’s wives. (The AR though denied allegations of immoral conduct and asked for proof.)
If a staff disagreed with the AR it was reported he would victimise such through a process of a) arbitrary transfers, b) with holding allowances, c) putting one’s promotion on hold and, d) denial of logistical support to perform duties. The AR expected unquestionable obedience and those who disagreed with him forfeited their career progression.
A Culture of Fear
Members described the working climate in the AR department as one characterised by fear. They were often threatened with not being confirmed in the University service for questioning the AR authority. The AR was found to use quiet often such forceful language like “stupid” “mere clerks” “small boys” “sleepy girls”. He was described as “a bulldozer.” Occasionally the AR would boast, “I have no carrot but stick.” A staff member reported, “I have developed high blood pressure as a result of working under him.”
No Financial Policies and Procedures
It was reported that the AR did not follow any financial policies and had the habit of committing the department to un budgeted expenditures. In some instances, the AR would ignore decision of Council, the supreme law- making body of the University. On occasion the AR had declined to release funds meant for other departments on matters of personal disagreement. There was no finance committee in the AR department leading to arbitrary decisions in budgeting, allocation of funds and lack of transparency.
It was reported that the AR had flouted University regulations by ordering the Senior Administrative Assistant to process the registration of a candidate into the Faculty of Social Sciences with forged copies of the Uganda Certificate of Education. The person in question when interviewed admitted that she had no A’ level qualifications. It was revealed the AR took interest in this candidate throughout her time at the University including scouting for her exam cards.
According to submissions most of the vocational employees in the AR department were kin of the AR. The AR admitted employing relatives to the AR department but defended himself that this “was not peculiar to him as other members of the Central Executive Committee” did likewise.
Lack of Human Resource policy
Most of the staff members in the AR department lacked job descriptions.. There was no an appointment or promotion committee in the department, which gave the AR considerable powers in determining people’s fate. There were cases of persons who had worked in the department for over ten years without promotion. The department had no regular staff appraisal
The AR was described as a dictator who listens to nobody. “He is difficult in that he does not give opportunity to others to air their views,” reported one staff member. “He dictates.” Another member said, “As you talk to him he covers his face with paper until one goes away.”
The Commission of Inquiry concluded that in view of the circumstances highlighted above “Dr David Mpata is unsuitable to continue as AR. The AR’s behaviour and disposition does not command the respect and confidence of staff under his supervision.”
- Why do you think the AR behaved just as he is described
- Discuss the Management style of the AR
- As the University Vice Chancellor you decide to retain the AR. What would you do to reform the AR’s Management Style?
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