The chief administrator of University of Egerton faces a fine of 100,000 shillings or a month's imprisonment for failing to comply with court orders to pay lecturers in full. Vice-Chancellor Professor Isaac Kibwage and eight members of the university council were ordered to pay fines or serve prison sentences after being found guilty of contempt of court on Wednesday.
Judge Njoroge also said two council members, namely Dr. John Ondari and Paul Kangira, did not appear in court for sentencing. Members Esther Wabuge, Dr. Wilson Ronno, Julius Mutua and Dr. Wario Fuca attended the verdict.
Professor Kibwage and his two trustees, Charity Nyaga and Joshua Otieno, were also not present, but their lawyers said in court they were not getting along. In his ruling, Judge Nderitu said the punishment should set an example for all officials who take the court's decisions for granted.
“Respondents have not shown sufficient effort to fulfill the order. In fact, the actions of some are offensive and it is time for the Court to express its authority on such matters.” said Judge Nderitu. The university boss, who appeared in court Wednesday following a court summons, was detained after ignoring a court order issued May 30.
The order required her to reinstate 100% of the instructor's salary. This was in line with the return-to-work formula signed on March 4th to end the teachers' strike. However, the lecturers again went to court, accusing the university management of disobeying orders.
In its ruling, the court said the university had deliberately refused to comply with the court's order and never gave the order the seriousness it deserved. But to mitigate them, Professor Kibwage, through his attorney Wilfried Konosi, sought leniency, claiming he inherited the problem at the university.
According to Konosi, the university's problems are historical and Professor Kibwage inherits a financially distressed institution. The court heard that Mr. Kibwage and the council worked tirelessly to save the university from a previous financial hole that had affected workers' salaries.
However, Lecturer objected through attorney Lawrence Karanja, who said the agency had received equivalent bounties from the government but chose to ignore their salary payments. According to Karanja, administrators' actions do not reflect remorse for the challenges their actions have posed to instructors' lives.
Judge Nderitu regretted that the university council had put so much effort into defending their case, rather than finding ways to pay the endowment. His four council members who were present were held in court for hours while they worked to pay their fines. Judge Nderitu arrested two members who never gave reasons for their absence and ordered them to give their reasons in court.
“The court found that the defendant had taken the matter casually and had a complete disregard for the welfare of the plaintiff who was unable to meet his obligations. No, but a lesson needs to be taught to high-ranking officials who disrespect the courts.
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