MUBS without Prof. Balunywa: What next for Uganda’s once-leading business school?

Prof. Juma Waswa Balunywa
Prof. Juma Waswa Balunywa
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Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Uganda’s once-leading business school, is said to have been relegated to second best. This according to some of the school’s faculty heads, Deans, Heads of Department and former students. They blame it on Prof. Juma Waswa Balunywa, 68, who has been the school’s Principal for the last 26 years.

Nonetheless, some MUBS employees believe that Prof. Juma Waswa Balunywa (JWB), an economist and scholar in management, leadership, and entrepreneurship has done an outstanding job and would like his contract, which expired on May 31, 2023, to be renewed for the sixth time.

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Who’s telling the truth: the academic leaders or the professor’s supporters? Read on.

Balunywa has taken the institution down

The academic leaders, claim MUBS under JWB has progressively gone down. They allege that he has been recruiting staff without following government procedures and MUBS’ human resources manual, including lecturers, some of whom had retakes: ‘’ aware that teaching is a core to MUBS ,such employees do not offer top-notch services to students.’’

‘’Mr. Robinson Ogwang had a retake in accounting II. Others are Kakai Nimrod and Vincent Balikudembe’’. This is according to a petitioner’s 17-page report dated July 25, 2023, to IGG and titled’’ Rampant embezzlement of government funds, theft of property, and gross abuse of office at Makerere University Business School’’

Spearheading a corrupt team

In the latest petition, the whistleblower accuses the former Principal of leading a corrupt team of officers. He wants him probed on a host of issues, key among them: Misappropriation of UGX 3.92 billion in staff enhancement funds given by the government to staff who were and are still underpaid; Embezzlement of over UGX 2.9 billion given to the MUBS Economic Forum for staff to conduct research, only UGX 25 million was given to staff to conduct the research; Irregular payout of an average of 1.5 billion per month for the last five years. This money is channeled through the account run by the MUBS Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Incubation Center.

Allegations of corruption and mismanagement against Balunywa are not new.

Former Deputy Principal, Dr. Julius Kakuru (R.I.P), exposed his boss and condemned the impunity he exercised, including paying himself a lot of money for his mother’s medication. In 2013, Prof. Balunywa is said to have paid himself $15,000 for his mother’s treatment in India, which was outside the school policy. The IGG’s Ms. Irene Mulyagonja later had to make Prof. Balunywa pay this money to the government.

According to a credible source, JWB refunded the money (UGX. 73 million) but he concealed the details. Prof. Sejaaka, his other deputy (2013-2018), resigned, accusing JWB of immorality, corruption and sabotage. The concerns voiced by Prof. Sejaaka were later revealed in the Auditor General’s report on MUBS’s financial statements for the Fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

also read: Auditor General wants Balunywa tried in court for fraud, running MUBS as his family business

Running MUBS as a family Business

Under JWB’s tenure, The Deans and Heads of Department are said to have worked under fear. It is said that the former Principal would start and end a meeting with minimal contributions from the members. Thus, deceptive submissions would go to the School Council and government reports.

Available minutes demonstrate the shallowness of discussion and the derivation of decisions. Occasionally, wrong decisions were made as a result. An example is the establishment of structures without permission from the Ministry of Public Service and the Ministry of Finance as per the law.
There are reports that some professors have, over the years, kept their jobs at the university, but in actuality, they resigned from active participation.

It is against this background that some staff strongly opposed Prof. Balunywa’s contract renewal. Reliable information reveals that five out of nine Deans opposed Balunywa’s reappointment. While two others indirectly opposed contract renewal for fear of reprimand just in case he got bounced back. ‘’Otherwise, he has fought other Deans before up to the exit, like Dr. James Akampumuza’’

Tribalism, nepotism

The academic leaders accuse the professor of modern management of taking over the recruitment process to recruit from his region, own children, the latest petition submitted to the IGG in July 2023 reads in part.
‘Professor Balunywa has three biological children, over 30 nephews and nieces, many brothers.’’ The petitioner claims

Overall, there are an estimated 400 staff who were recruited irregularly without minutes or relevant approval from the ministries of public service and finance. The school has approved university staff of 1,152

JWB supporters weigh in.

There is a group of MUBS staff who strongly believe the ‘’guru of modern management’’, has done a tremendous job for the last 25 years. They say the allegations against Prof. Balunywa is a smear campaign
‘’ Prof. Balunywa introduced many relevant academic programs. He started several projects like the Leadership Centre, Entrepreneurship Centre, Career development Centre, Jinja campus and project unit, as one Dean pointed out.

Balunywa is also credited, for among other things; growing the institution to an autonomous status and growing the student population from about 8,000 students in 1997 to more than 17,000 today.
He adds: for the last 25 years, MUBS has had no strike typical of other universities
However, some observers believe Prof. Balunywa’s unethical flaws, including extreme immorality, corruption, fraud, defiance of government procedures, and arrogance have eclipsed his accomplishments.
”Moreover, these accomplishments were the consequence of a team that he led. As a result, portraying himself as the sole hero is false.”

MUBS without Balunywa

Prof. Moses Muhwezi has been acting Principal since June 2023. There is a general feeling among staff, Deans, and Heads of Department that the current leadership is doing a great job. The school managers no longer experience threats, intimidation, and favoritism.

‘’ The school is running normally with noticeable improvements in the academic area. It is expected that the next round of University ranking, will improve. There is evidence of more productivity especially academic staff than before’’ says a senior MUBS management staff

She adds: In the last three months, two staff have been promoted to full Professor and three to Associate Professor Rank. Meanwhile 13 staff were promoted to senior lecturer rank

Mr. Frank Kabuye, recently won the best Paper Award at the Africa Accounting Association. While Prof. Stephen K. Nkundabanyanga, one of the highly respected professors with the highest academic publication record at MUBS was elected president of the African Accounting and Finance Association -which is a vote of confidence

There are unconfirmed reports that student leaders have withstood multiple attempts by negative actors to have students strike in order to depict Prof. Muhwezi as incapable of managing the university.
For now, the MUBS, seem to be running smoothly 03 months since the contract of strongman & long serving Principal expired. Can Prof. Muhwezi & his team keep the momentum? Only time will tell.

also read: Fraud, insider dealing at Uganda Development Bank: 900m disappears just like that; could this be a tip of the iceberg?

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