Intrigues of corner office fights in cash-rich energy parastatals

Thursday, January 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Cash. Photo/PD/Courtesy

Surging high-octane back room lobbying for top positions in State enterprises is affecting service delivery within the multi-billion energy sector where firms have been operating without substantive heads for years.

In the wake, Business Hub noted that National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock) and Geothermal Development Company (GDC) have launched the hunt for a chief executive officer and managing director respectively, in a vicious jockeying to fill vacant positions at the plum corner offices.

At Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), what appears like power barons jostling for the MD’s post saw a Nairobi court block the appointment of Macharia Irungu last month.

Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Hellen Wasilwa ruled that Hudson Andambi will continue serving in an acting capacity pending the determination of a case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah.

Score sheet

In his petition, Omtatah wants the court to compel the KPC board to produce the score sheets showing how each member of the interviewing panel ranked the candidates.

The activist also demanded the scores awarded to each of them and the criteria used in selecting the three shortlisted candidates, throwing a spanner into the works regarding Irungu’s appointment.

With the corner office at KPC, Nock and GDC up for grabs, attention is now shifting to the power brokers and boardrooms intrigues that will determine the next occupant of the positions, at some of Kenya’s most lucrative positions.

As the hunt intensifies, focus will be on Nock which heralded heated boardroom wars immediately after the resignation of then chief executive officer Jane Mwangi.

Her exit was, however, short-lived after the board renewed her contract and soon after terminating it in an unprecedented turn of events after. 

Having picked James Nyamongo who worked at KPC to replace her, the board saw the decision being overruled by Mining and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary (CS) John Munyes.

The CS then appointed George Kubai as the Acting CEO awaiting a substantive one, all these happening in a span of a month, as the posts where decisions of the highest levels are made await filling. The latest development at the oil corporation is the third attempt to get a substantive boss.

Munyes defended Irungu’s appointment and confirmed that he was among 88 others who were interviewed by the board but Members of Parliament read mischief in Irungu’s appointment, accusing the board of orchestrating a corporate coup against Andambi who was poised to take up the position.

Interviews for the nine shortlisted candidates for the post took place in November 2019 amid claims by some Members of Parliament that the board was planning to impose its preferred candidate.

Omtatah on his part claimed that failure to disclose the outcome of the first advert went against Article 35(3) of the Constitution on the right to access information.

“The second advert was irregular and unlawful since the applicants of the first advert didn’t know what happened to their applications,”he said in his petition.

At GDC, the contract for chief executive Johnson ole Nchoe was renewed last year, awaiting a new head after consultations between the Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and GDC board of directors.

Keter offered the GDC boss a one-year contract amid reports of opposition by the board.

His predecessor, Silas Simiyu, also fell out with the board, prompting his resignation in March 2015 after he was adversely mentioned in tender irregularities.

Eight months after his exit, the board suspended six GDC managers: Acting CEO Godwin Mwawongo, company secretary Praxidis Saisi, tender committee members Abraham Saat, Peter Ayodo, Caleb Mbayi and Nicholas Karume.

Gas project

Nock which was also used by the government to deepen use of cooking gas cannot explain the whereabouts of an estimated Sh3 billion set aside for the Mwananchi Gas project which was meant to safeguard the poor from respiratory diseases caused by the use of firewood 

Obviously, the boardroom wars at these State corporations in the energy sector are seen as part of a bigger ploy to control their massive resources, with cartels pushing their own to the corner office.

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