Public universities have been featured in the media this week for all the wrong reasons.
The latest Auditor-General’s report paints a grim picture of the financial status of the institutions, saying some are “technically insolvent”. The case of the University of Nairobi is particularly worrying after the audit report showed it sank deeper into the red with Sh1.4 billion loss in the financial year to June 2018.
Other public universities face similar crises, including unremitted statutory deductions that are exposing them to penalties and risk of credit blacklisting.
These woes are mostly self-inflicted. The institutions have a bloated workforce and spent most of their resources on rapid expansion that guzzled hundreds of millions of shillings without a proper plan on how the projects would generate income.
Others were affected by a sudden change in government funding and enrolment policy and this has piled pressure on the operations of the institutions, pointing to the need for a predictable regulatory environment that would guarantee long-term planning.
If they are to survive, the institutions should change tack and put in place cost-cutting measures and boost efficiency even as they ask the Treasury for enhanced allocation.