Stephen Tumutegyereize, a former Makerere University lecturer who was dismissed with disgrace is seeking to overturn the decision citing unfair termination of his contract.
Tumutegyereize is among 45 Makerere university employees who were sacked in December 2018 by the University Appointments Board.
The decision to dismiss Tumutegyereize was reached in the 587th University Appointments Board meeting. A copy of the board minutes, which has been seen show that Tumutegyereize was found guilty of non-adherence to University policies after he failed to complete his PhD program in time, contrary to the Human Resource Manual of 2009.
It is alleged that while employed as a lecturer in the Department of Planning and Applied Statistics of Makerere University, Tumutegyereize was granted leave up to December 2013 to enable him pursue his PhD in vain. However, ran to Makerere University Staff Appeals Tribunal to challenge the decision.
We’ve learnt that Tumutegyereize spent 12 years on a PhD Programme and it’s why the University chose to dismiss him.
Tumutegyereize joined Makerere University on September 1999 as a Lecture in the Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics.
On March 18, 2003, he was provisionally admitted to a PhD program at Makerere University effective September 22nd, 2002 to September 21st, 2003. On February 1, 2006, he was admitted to a five year PhD programme at the University of Cape Town South Africa commencing 2006.
On February 9, 2006, he was granted three month’s study leave effective 1st March 2006 to enable him register for a PhD Sandwich programme at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
On January 16, 2006, he was granted a nine month’s study leave effective February 2007 to October 31st, 2007 to carryout regular activities in relation to the PhD program in South Africa.
On June 26th, 2008, he was granted five month’s study leave effective July 2008 until November 2008 to enable him register for the 2008 academic year the University of Cape Town.
On October 6, 2009, the University of Cape Town granted him Leave of Absence from February 20th, 2009 to December 31st, 2009.
On March 22nd, 2010, Tumutegyereize received funds worth Shillngs 13M as Top Up funding for PhD programme from Makerere University.
He also received another Shillings 15million from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) on January 31st, 2011 to do a PhD in statistics at the University of Cape Town.
On June 17, 2011, he received another Shillings 19.8million from the National Council for Higher Education.
On October 7th 2015, the acting Director Human Resources at Makerere University informed Tumutegyereize that having interacted with the Staff Development and welfare committee, he was required to write a statement on challenges that prevented him from completing the program, include the progress of his studies and an activity plan on how he was going to progress.
This progress report was supposed to be endorsed by his supervisor by July 14th, 2015. Tumutegyereize, however, explained that he was not listened to when he explained his predicament to the Appointments Board.
While appearing before the Board in 2018, Tumutegyereize explained that he couldn’t complete his course on time because of inadequate funds.
TheCapitaltimes has learnt that the lecturer applied for Staff Development Funds on August 9, 2006 following a July 2006 advert by the Human Resource Manager.
In his application Tumutegyereize disclosed that he was in his first year of a four-year PhD study programme at the University Of Cape Town (UCT) with partial funding of US$35,000 from firstname.lastname@example.org, a capacity building programme for the University.
At the time, Tumutegyereize says he had a budget deficit of US$48,870 and sought the university to fund it under the staff development scheme for the period between 2007 to 2009.
Tumutegyereize says the initial funding for the research grant of US$30,000 wasn’t enough for his PhD at UCT. “I tried as best as I could to stretch the funding by limiting visits at University of Cape Town for not more than 4-6 months every academic year, but still the grant got used up by 2008,” said Tumutegyereize.
He says he sought for Leave of Absence for one Academic Year in 2009, which was granted. “In 2010, I got some little funding from NCHE and was back on the program (paid tuition and visited UCT for six months). I applied for more funding from NCHE for the academic year 2011. Unfortunately, the process took very long and my application was considered in July 2011,” said Tumutegyereize.
Adding that; “This delay led to my not being able to travel to UCT to register in time and interface with my supervisors as I had originally planned. Besides, the funding from NCHE in 2011 was only enough for tuition, one round trip (air ticket) from Entebbe to Cape Town, stipend for 2 and a half months.” While visiting UCT in 2011, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University had a meeting with Tumutegyereize’s Thesis advisor and staff at the International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO).
This discussion according to the report resulted into increased funding of the grant, worth six months visit at UCT, which the lecturer says he used to pay tuition and visit the campus in 2012 academic year. In 2013 academic year, he failed to secure funding for the programme.
In a letter a July 5th, 2012 seen by this website addressed to the Head of Department Planning and Applied Statistics in the School of Statistics and Applied Economics at Makerere University, Tumutegyereize applied for Universities Science, Humanities and Engineering Partnerships in Africa (USHEPIA) funding for his final academic year 2013.
“I am now in my second last visit of my PhD study programme. As you already know, I have had funding problems all through. I plan to complete the thesis and submit between June –September 2013. Unfortunately, I have not managed to obtain funding for academic year 2013. I have approached the IAPO here at UCT for funding and have been advised that the most likely source of funding they could explore is USHEPIA, but that is subject to being endorsed by my Head of Department and Vice Chancellor of Makerere University,” he said.
We’ve further learnt from a June 11, 2013 letter to the Director Human Resources where Tumutegyereize indicates that he missed the funding because the University declined to recommend him and refused to communicate to him why his endorsement was declined. He says that he was then assigned course units to teach, which he wouldn’t decline. This, he says prompted him to write to his supervisor Professor Theodor Stewart with a view of supervising him from Makerere University.
In one of the emails seen, Professor Steward said at the time he was in the UK and did not have access to his personal files on Tumutegyereize’s work and or the student’s plans of action. “A difficulty may be that UCT has no system of “Credits” towards a PhD degree. A thesis is submitted and is either accepted, returned for revisions and or more research which can happen only once, or rejected. Since you never submitted a thesis, there is no formal record of performance that can be transferred,” Professor Stewart responded.
In defense of his failure to complete his PhD programme written to the University Human Resources Director on November 26, 2018, Tumutegyereize noted that his inability to complete the thesis by December 2013 was due to “forces beyond my control.”
He told the University Appointments Board that he was not able to conclude on time due to fees problems. “I came to explain that I ran out of funding in 2009. I was hopeful that my leave of absence would be allowed but was not successful. I had no money for 2014,” Tumutegyereize told the Appointments Board in 2018. According to Minutes of the Board, the then University Appointments Board chairperson, Bruce Balaba Kabaasa disclosed that Tumutegyereize was not being honest with the university.
“But the University gave you all the money you asked for, why are you not true to a system that has been patient with you all this time,” Kabaasa is quoted in the minutes to have told Tumutegyereize. “How about the Shillings 47 million the University gave you in addition to the US$30,000? (Tumutegyereize keeps quiet). Why are you not honest about the much money you received, yet it’s on record and all paper work is available?” Kabasa questioned.
The case for the second time appeared before the Staff Tribunal on March 11, 2020. During the hearing Tumutegyereize’s lawyer, Isaac Ssemakadde clashed with the tribunal members regarding the procedure of handling the matter.
Ssemakadde says the tribunal has been taking its time in deciding matters affecting staff, arguing that this indirectly compromises justice.
Ssemakadde argues that the Appointments Board sat in a rush with a predetermined decision to kick his client out of the University. He also argues that the penalty given to Tumutegyereize was harsh and excessive especially because the staff has been an able and willing soldier of the university.
“What the university lost is the money. He could repay it as he completes his tenure and so on. So to remove somebody from permanent and pensionable status as a first resort is just harsh, unjust and excessive,” Ssemakadde said. The Tribunal Head Retired High Court Judge, Patrick Tabaro asked Ssemakadde to file written skeletal arguments to allow the tribunal to properly contextualise the case and decide on them.
“We decided that written skeletal arguments are better. The lawyer for the appellant should file by March 12th, 2020 and the University should respond by March 18th, 2020. We have also allowed counsel for appellant to respond with a rejoinder on March 20th, 2020. We shall be back here to establish whether or not all the skeletal arguments are on record on 23rd March,” ruled Retired Justice Tabaro.