Lobbying for Kenya National Highway Authority top job intensifies

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 00:00 |
A section of the Nairobi Expressway which is under construction. The Kenya National Highways Authority is overseeing the project. Photo/File

The process of picking the new boss at the country’s premier roads agency gets underway this week amid a vicious behind-the-scenes lobbying.

Kenya National Highway Authority (KeNHA) is this week scheduled to start the vetting and shortlisting of applicants for the Director General’s position with power brokers, including politicians and well-connected contractors, said to be canvassing for their preferred candidates.

People Daily has established that several engineers, from both within and outside the parastatal, have applied for the position after KeNHA, which is chaired by Wangai Ndirangu, placed a newspaper advertisement declaring the position vacant and inviting applications.

The board is mandated to oversee the process of replacing former Director General Peter Mundinia whose term expired last month.

A DG’s term is three years, with a possibility of a single renewal “subject to satisfactory performance and delivery of the set performance targets and outcomes”.

David Muchilwa, who is the director for development and who previously served as KeNHA’s general manager special projects, is currently holding the position in acting capacity.

On Tuesday, board chair Ndirangu confirmed the recruitment process was “going on well” but said while the board cannot rule out lobbying by interested parties, the process will be conducted with integrity to ensure the best candidate wins.

“Of course we cannot rule out intrigues from interested parties considering the influence the position comes with.

But those behind-the-scenes schemes have not been brought to our attention and neither can they sway us.

I can assure all applicants and the public that the board is very independent and under no pressure from anybody.

We will be vetting the candidates based on merit,” Ndirangu said in a telephone interview.

He added: “We have received a considerable number of applications both internally and externally.

We are not restricting ourselves to just internal applicants because we want to ensure we have the best man or woman to run the institution.”

Political background

From meetings in city hotels and private offices and residences in leafy suburbs, People Daily has established that wheeler dealers, contractors and some politicians, including presidential aspirants, have been plotting to seize control of KeNHA currently running multi-billion-shilling road projects as part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy.

Reliable sources said some politicians prefer to have someone from outside government to take over the position.

Some lobbyists are said to be pushing for a person with a political background, a position that has reportedly sparked protest among KeNHA’s engineers and contractors who feel politicians, particularly former MPs, could politicise and run down the roads agency.

“There is intense lobbying and intrigues happening behind the scenes. Some of those interested in the post, including internal engineers, have been meeting some politicians, government operatives, contractors and power brokers keen on influencing the process,” a highly placed source  disclosed.

At least six engineers in charge of various directorates under the agency have been mentioned as possible successors to Mundinia.

According to the Kenya Roads Act 2007, which establishes the authority and provides guidelines for the process of recruitment of a DG, “Each Authority shall have a Director-General, who shall be appointed by the concerned Board in consultation with the Minister from among three candidates competitively selected by the Board”.

KeNHA is one of the critical agencies shaping Uhuru’s legacy and is currently implementing, among other multi-billion-shilling projects, the Sh160 billion 233km Rironi-Nakuru-Mau Summit road which starts this month, Sh17 billion James Gichuru Junction-Rironi (26km), which is an expansion of Nairobi-Nakuru highway and the 27km Sh62 billion four-lane dual carriage way dubbed Nairobi Expressway.

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