Makerere University lecturers reject biometric clock-in system again

Makerere University teaching staff have roundly rejected the biometric staff attendance management system meant to record their clock-in times.

The resolution was passed during an emergency general assembly held on October 20 by the lecturers under their umbrella organization, Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa). The university recently decided to procure and deploy a biometric staff management system to enhance staff compliance with time and attendance requirements.

According to the university secretary Yusuf Kiranda, this biometric system is intended to be linked to the human capital management (HCM) attendance module and will be implemented as a physical clock-in system across the university, where each staff member would have to clock in at their respective duty stations.

In an October 12, 2023 letter, addressed to all members of staff and the university council, Kiranda explained that the government is implementing an integrated HCM system to automate human resource management functions in the public service. A university council special meeting on March 9, 2023, resolved to procure and deploy a biometric staff management system to improve staff adherence to time and attendance of duty.

However, in an October 20 letter to the university council chairperson, signed by Dr Robert Kakuru, Muasa chairperson and general secretary, Christine Mpyangu Mbabazi, Muasa members expressed their rejection of the implementation of the biometric attendance management system. They firmly believe that there should be more competitive and consultative methods for monitoring academic staff performance and productivity.

The letter goes on to highlight that the introduction of the biometric system lacked adequate consultation and stakeholder engagement. It is the opinion of the staff that this system will severely undermine their ability to deliver the mandate of the university.

“Members further believe the biometric system is unacademic and a non-starter. The substantial financial investment in this system should be reallocated to retool staff for executing their mandate,” reads part of the letter.

“The university’s programs and interventions are guided by well-thought policies adopted after extensive consultation with all stakeholders. Unfortunately, this biometric system is being rushed into implementation without adequate consultations and without a clear university policy,” states another part of the letter.

Academic staff further argue that the biometric attendance management system primarily focuses on monitoring staff attendance between 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. However, the assessment of academic staff performance should consider outputs such as teaching, research, publications, community service, assessments, and networking for research and grants, rather than merely physical presence in the office between 8:00 to 5:00 pm.

Muasa says that the forceful implementation of the biometric system is considered regressive and may lead to a brain drain, potentially resulting in numerous staff resignations. The university’s focus, they argue, should be on staff productivity in terms of outputs, rather than physical presence.

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