By Duncan Mlanjira
Soon after being censured by Vice-President Saulos Chilima that Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) is not up to the task under its management and that it is being run down, the institution’s Executive Director Arnold Juma has gone on a 34-day leave.
In an internal memo to members of staff, Juma has claimed 15 days of his annual leave from September 10-30 and a further 19 days from October 1-28.
Meanwhile, Juma told the members of staff that Director of Finance & Administration, Samson Sikelo-Phiri will be in charge during his absence.
Chilima, who is also Minister for Economic Planning & Development and Public Sector Reforms, engaged with the education sector to appreciate the strides they are making in the implementation of public sectors reforms and he made it public that he was not impressed with MIM’s management style.
Chilima said the institution’s presentation was the most uninspiring portrait of an organization since he resumed working on public sector reforms under the administration of President Lazarus Chakwera.
“If [MIM] is an institution that was established to train top civil servants then as it stands, the institution is not up to the task under its current leadership,” Chilima wrote on his Facebook wall last week.
“Clearly, as of now MIM is an organization that is being run down — it is regressing [and] I told them I do not have time to waste and they better come again when they are ready and prepared for a discussion meant to perfect an organization.
“From their financial presentation, one can tell that the organization is on its deathbed. I have been told that the institution has experienced persistent cash flow challenges resulting into lawsuits; and suppliers refusing to offer them goods and services as well as accumulating arrears in taxes and pension contributions.
“With this obtaining, I expected the Executive Director to be in control of the situation and explain what has led to the current state of affairs and possible solutions being lined up to turn around the situation.
“However, it seemed the ED did not have any idea how the institution has found itself in this situation, three years after being at the helm.
“The presentation had no direction and it was difficult to offer input. I therefore asked them to leave and prepare or if they are not up to the task, resign and go home,” he had said.
Commenting to Juma’s decision to go leave amid all this furore, Azikiwe Mussa-Mbewe Snr, said MIM is one institution with better learning facilities in Malawi and it just needs to put plans to fully commercialise degree courses as an independent business unit in form of a University.
“International universities have prefered delivering their courses at this magnificent place,” Mussa-Mbewe said. “I can testify to this because I facilitated the twinning with University of Bolton during one call of duty during my three-year contract with the government.
“My single tip to MIM before seeing the VP again, commercialise some of the short courses in liasion with private sector and NGOs.
“I have seen some private and public sector institutions hiring international firms like Redpoint to provide inhouse and part time leadership development courses the fashion MIM can afford.
“There are a number of training gaps that MIM can take advantage in their fully commercialised business unit. MIM you have all it takes to be the best institution in Malawi.”
Oscar Kanjala opines that going forward, when new board of directors (BOD) are appointed, they must undergo orientation as soon as they are appointed.
“Everyone must understand their terms of references,” Kanjala said. “In the absence of adequately resourced BODs, management teams are likely to enjoy field days.”
George Ng’ambi observed that the role of the Board is overrated — “or simply put, the Board has failed to deliver”.
“Does it surprise you there’s this mess when clueless chiefs and reverend presided over most parastatal boards?” he questioned.
Chimwemwe Kakhuta Mtegha wondered how MIM’s executive director decides to go on leave in the absence of the Board of Directors.
“Has this annual leave been approved by the Controller of Statutory Corporations? I find this as abscondment of duty, and that the Director of Finance and Administration is more capable than the ED.
Charles Ulaya observed that MIM is just a slice of the mess in the country’s higher learning institutions.
“If the VP was to also look at Poly, Chanco, LUANAR, NRC, MUST, MCA, KCN he can even collapse — the standard of learning have completely gone done.
He also observed that National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) pronouncements last week that all courses at the University of Malawi (UNIMA) meet all relevant requirements “may be a blatant lie”.
“The truth of the matter is they never assessed anything. They just used history. Emphasis on assessment is placed on private universities.
“The whole higher learning institutions in Malawi needs a complete overhaul and refreshing. This country’s government learning institutions do not have a strategic direction.
“You just have to look at the standard of premises, equipment, learning environment, state of library and even without interviewing the lecturers and students, you just see the mess we are in.
“If they can even manage to dodge being ranked, what do you expect from such higher learning institutions.”
Peter Chirwa said it is puzzling some colleges were able to “cheat their way through by lying to the VP”.
“How can MUST, LUANAR be a beacon on standards? “Have you checked their courses that they are wasting our children’s talent on?”
He cited China as an example that it does not waste time teaching their blight kids administration curriculum in this age but focuses on pure technology.
“Our tech institutions are full of administration associated coursework. Maybe Malawi will develop in the next life or the grave when we stop lying to each other that we are reforming.
“For once, let’s face reality [that] we’re backward and let’s build something helpful. I am slowly loosing hope with all the lies they’re feeding the VP and him swallowing it.”
In his reports, Chilima commended MUST, not only for the clear presentation and the clarity of thought of the vision it has, but also for the kind of progressive reforms that the institution is embarking on to ensure financial sustainability in future.
“I couldn’t agree more with Professor Address Mauakowa Malata, the Vice Chancellor, who said that ‘no University in the world makes progress if it is dependent on government’.
“To achieve such a desired state of financial sustainability, MUST plans to come up with a number of activities including the establishment of an endowment fund, construction of an Industrial Park, introduction of online learning as well as aggressive research and consultancies.
“Meanwhile, the institution has implemented some of the reforms that we tasked them with in 2015 and currently MUST is on track implementing the remaining ones.
“There is also clear organisational growth with intake increasing from 153 in 2014 to 2,699 in 2020. It is also commendable that the number of female students has increased from 40 in 2014 to 731 in 2020.”
All things being equal, Chilima said, MUST sounds to be a success story with a clear strategic plan.
“However, we have challenged the University to continue thinking big as it embarks on various projects including construction of more hostels, houses for lecturers, an industrial park and laboratories.
On LUANAR, Chilima said he was satisfied with the progress that has been made from where it started a few years ago and also commended it for the progressive reforms that the management is putting up and the clear strategic direction that they have.
“Just like the clarity that we saw from MUST, LUANAR’s presentation too had clarity of thought and a clear roadmap of the vision they have for the institution.
“LUANAR’s reforms are clearly classified — there are those to be implemented in the shortest period possible that range from institutional governance reforms to resource mobilization reforms while those in the medium to long term, border on energy source diversification, general operations and teaching and learning environment.
“I have commended LUANAR management for the energy source diversification reform which aims at providing different sources of energy at LUANAR campuses and that so far progress is underway towards implementation of this particular reform.
“All in all, LUANAR continues to be a success story with commitment towards its reforms especially those that tilt towards financial sustainability.”
Next up was UNIMA where discussion centred mainly on one reform area that has been under implementation — the delinking of its colleges, a process that started in 2018.
“This unbundling process has led to the creation of three colleges — Chancellor College to be the new UNIMA, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College to merge into Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) while the Polytechnic to be Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS).
“I have been updated that from where we left, there have been a number strides towards conclusion of the delinking exercise. Parliament adopted legislation to create the three colleges and the Bills were assented to.
“What remains now is for the Ministry of Education to issue a commencement notice to put in effect the creation of the three colleges.
“However, there are still a number of financial, logistical and technical issues to be finalised for the delinking process to be in a state of readiness.
“On that point, we have agreed that we will all put shoulders to the wheel to ensure that the exercise is concluded in the shortest period possible.
“A decision was made to delink the colleges — progress has been made including a Bill which was already assented to, therefore it is time for implementation.
“I have said it now and then that once we make decisions as a country we must implement and move on.”
On MANEB, Chilima said the institution was tasked with five reform areas and so far the examination board has managed to implement three.
“To this effect, MANEB will be embarking on new reforms including institutional reforms to improve service delivery as well as to curb internal risks such as mis-procurement.
“However, it was disappointing to note that one of the reform areas that MANEB was tasked with has not been fully implemented because, as presented, the supplier did not meet their obligation.
“The particular reform area in question was meant to help MANEB save resources through development of an in-house printing capacity. Progress was made in that a heavy duty machine for the task was procured and installed in July 2018 as reported in the meeting.
“However, we have been told that two years down the line the machine is yet to be commissioned because it is faulty or arrived with technical challenges.
“The instruction I have given is that the supplier must be engaged and have the machine operational in the shortest period possible [and for] MANEB provide feedback by Friday this week,” Chilima said.