Mount Kenya University (MKU) has prided itself as one of the fastest growing institutions of its kind in the 2000s.
Over the period of its existence many cases have emerged, some going all the way to the court, with accusations of the founder of the university for poor land handling and in some cases, obvious land fraud allegations.
But frequent invitations to the mention of the name of its founder Simon Gicharu allows one to interrogate the nature and type of the explosive rise of the university.
Gicharu, a close ally to the Kenya state operatives has been a great beneficiary of State appointments, serving in leading parastatals in the country including the multi-billion shilling Geothermal Development Corporation, a clear reward for his reward towards former President Uhuru regime since 2013.
At the same time, the Ministry of Education capitation for private universities saw thousands of students get State capitation with MKU among the biggest beneficiaries of the programme.
“We are working on the figures and monies that MKU received and soon, we shall make it public. The figures are high and I can assure you that some of you will be shocked,” says a member of the National Assembly Education Committee.
On the other hand, the country’s legal fraternity is still apprehensive of the university’s School of Law at the speed it acquired the charter to offer Law ahead of some of the established public universities.
“MKU has a few things to reply to in this country. The millions they received and the nature of the scandals they have weathered in the recent past has many people thinking about the operations. We cannot rule out the closeness to power that the owner enjoys in many places in our country. All that will be known when the matter is put to discussion,” the MP in the Education Committee says.
Investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) looking into the allegations of fraud in an inflated Sh1.2 billion campus purchase deal between MMUST and Mount Kenya University (MKU) has been set rolling.
The commission had commenced investigations into the matter following a complaint that MMUST had purchased the MKU Turkana Campus at an exorbitant price of Sh1.2 billion yet the property was valued at Sh600 million.
Investigations established that the acquisition was initiated through a letter dated March 17, 2016, by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of MMUST, Planning, Research and Innovation to the Cabinet Secretary of Education Science and Technology.
Investigations by the EACC established by the Commission of University of Education (CUE) approved the acquisition stating that it had already accredited the campus. The MMUST University Council also deliberated and approved the acquisition on June 17, 2017.
On July 28, 2022, a report was compiled by the EACC team and forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) with a recommendation for closure of the inquiry file. The report further held that the VC (Prof Otieno) who would have been culpable for failing to adhere to the procurement law and regulations is deceased.
Prof Otieno left office on December 1, 2018, amid a barrage of audit queries. He died in 2019.
Step Up Holdings
Similarly, in its expansion strategy, MKU in a deal sewed up by Simon Gicharu has been embroiled in a land tussle with a firm Step Up Holdings that according to court documents, claim they were shortchanged.
Apparently, MKU through Gicharu, allegedly entered into an agreement with Step Up in 2011 to set up a Nakuru campus mini wing in Kericho town but the owner didn’t measure up leading to a court battle in a supposed Sh511M botched deal between the two entities. Step Up ran the operations of the Nakuru Campus before the clash. This was a gentleman’s deal between the two entrepreneurs meaning it was all verbal.
Step Up Holdings avers that a month after their verbal agreement, the university forced the firm to close the Kericho Campus leading to a loss of Sh953,881.
The firm claims the university then “illegally took over” the campus by relocating 3,807 students and 295 staff to other premises. The court sided with Step Up Holdings and found the university liable for Sh511 million.
In 2012, the Court of Appeal in Nakuru dismissed appeal attempt by MKU dismissing the appellants’ application for stay of proceedings pending Arbitration.
“The background to the appeal is that, both the appellant and the respondent entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) containing an arbitration clause,” Court records show.
However, Nakuru High Court judge Justice Hillary Chemitei allowed the university to file defence Sh511million dispute.
“The interlocutory judgement entered against the applicant or defendant on November 17, 2011, is hereby set aside,” ruled Justice Hilary Chemitei.
“The applicant shall within 30 days from the date herein deposit Sh511million in a joint interest-earning account in the names of both counsel for the applicant and the defendant pending the hearing and determination of the suit,” stated Justice Chetimei.
The court also ordered Step Up Holdings to provide a Sh511million bank guarantee from a reputable firm within 30 days pending the hearing of the case.
Provisions of the MoU cited by the university in its flopped attempt to push for arbitration were dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
Mount Kenya University has found itself once again on the receiving end after entering into a scandalous land deal with an alleged fraudulent businessman leading up to a court battle.
In what was thought to be a smooth deal to acquire a piece of land in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, the institution’s owner Simon Gicharu has once again fallen prey.
The institution dragged a controversial British national Vallabh Haribhai Bakrania to court for allegedly defrauding them of Sh20 million.
Bakrania is accused of obtaining the money by pretending he was in a position to sell to the university a piece of land located in Industrial Area, Nairobi.
Bakrania allegedly committed the offence on 27th November 2020 in Nairobi, with intent to defraud Mount Kenya University.