Delayed appointment of ferry services board raises concern

Monday, May 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Passengers aboard a ferry at the Likoni channel exercise social distancing recently in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. Corporate governance experts say the absence of a board has exposed KFS to challenges in accountability. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Concerns have emerged over the delayed appointment of a board of directors to steer the activities of Kenya Ferry Services (KFS).

The state corporation with a huge budget allocation from taxpayers has been operating without a board of directors for the last six months after the former board, led by former Tourism Cabinet Secretary Dan Mwazo, was sacked by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The board was shown the door following the death of Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu when their vehicle slipped off the ferry at Likoni and plunged into the Indian Ocean.

Corporate governance experts say the absence of a board has exposed KFS to challenges in accountability, policy making, monitoring and supervision of executive activities.

Before his sacking, Mwazo had served for only two months having chaired only one board meeting.

To date, he believes he was a victim of “unwarranted mob lynching” emanating from previous failures. 

“I don’t know why I was fired myself after two months, I had only chaired one board meeting and since I left, the directors have never met up to today, this obviouly has repercussions,” Mwazo told the People Daily yesterday.

This means the management is making key decisions involving huge sums of money without approvals by a board. 

With the leadership gaps, managing director Bakari Gowa says his hands are tied as he is not the appointing authority to bring in new board members.

“When the board is not there, then it is not there, so I think those in a position to answer you is the relevant ministry, the executive is authoritatively in a position to respond to this,” he said.

Revoke appointment

The official, who did not want to comment much on the matter, however, said it is the right time a new board is constituted because it is key in decision making.

“There are no board meetings because there is no one, you know the work of a board is to make decisions, but operations are going on well,” he added.

Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) Rapid Response officer Francis Auma termed it as an illegality for a government parastatal to operate without a substantive board.

“The President needs to act fast if we sincerely want to save taxpayers’ money from possible abuse and want to ensure that Kenyans get value for money for the investments made by these parastatals, otherwise the situation as it is now is very wanting,” she said.

The human rights lobby has now threatened to seek legal redress on the matter should the executive fail to appoint new board members. 

“The leadership gap now exposes the parastatal to corruption and other corporate governance issues as there is no one to check on the management,” he said. 

According to the State Corporations Act, “… the President may, if at any time it appears to him that a board has failed to carry out its functions in the national interest, revoke the appointment of any member of the board and may himself nominate a new member for the remainder of the period of office of that member or he may constitute a new board for such period as he shall, in consultation with the committee determine.”

“Legally, no parastatal should operate without a board. That is all what I can say,” said Mombasa-based lawyer Jared Magolo.

More on National