FAVORITISM?

Questions abound Kenya Power CEO recruitment

The first interviews were conducted between September 22 -23 where ten candidates were interviewed by Deloitte and Touché

In Summary
  • The new CEO was appointment despite being in charge of procurement and supply chain when Kenya Power procured defective transformers.
  • Activist Okiya Omtatah is said to be considering moving to court to challenge the appointment, sources close to him hinted yesterday, though he remained tight- lipped on his move
New Kenya Power MD Bernard Ngugi.
New Kenya Power MD Bernard Ngugi.
Image: COURTESY

Barely a week after the appointment of Bernard Ngugi as the managing director and CEO of Kenya Power, fresh details on the recruitment process have emerged depicting favoritism and corruption.

The board is now on the spot over the hurriedly done appointment of the former head of procurement who served under the former CEO Ben Chumo and immediate former managing director Ken Tarus, both of whom have been arraigned in court over graft.

It has also emerged the board overlooked the State Corporations Act and acted on the listed companies provision where it made an appointment without the direct involvement of the Energy Cabinet Secretary.

 
 

“The CS is normally given a final list to decide on which wasn’t the case here,” a source familiar with the process told the Star.

When contacted, Energy CS Charles Keter said he was fully aware without giving more information.

''Fully aware,'' Keter said in a message to the Star. 

According to interview processes seen by the Star, the first interviews were conducted between September 22 -23 where ten candidates were interviewed by Deloitte and Touché at their Nairobi offices.

They included the then acting CEO Jared Othieno, Bernard Ngugi, former Philips East Africa general manager Mary Kibugi, Multichoice Kenya managing director Eric Odipo, and former Sameer managing director Simon Ngigi.

Others were KenGen chief financial officer John Mudany, Kenya Railways general manager finance Alfred Matheka and three other top officials from the private sector and state corporations.

“From the ten, six names were forwarded to the board before undergoing the last interviews on October 24,” a source familiar with the recruitment process told the Star.

Those in the last six included Othieno, Kibugi, Ngugi, and Odipo, according to an insider who confirmed the current MD trailed other candidates on performance.

 
 

The board made its announcement two (working) days later, on October 29, without the presence of the CS Charles Keter who had that week accompanied President Kenyatta on official duty to Saudi Arabia.

Othieno who has been the acting managing director and CEO since July last year was also missing from last week’s announcement, hence no official handing over of office was done. 

Othieno, an insider, was appointed by Keter to stabilise things at the corporation.

Before his acting appointment, the once head of network management is said to have previously fallen out with top management after questioning ‘suspicious decisions’, which saw him thrown to street lighting under the infrastructure department.

 “It is a concern how the process was conducted, I strongly believe there is a lot of interests being protected,” a senior official told the Star.

Questions abound Ngugi being in office despite being in charge of procurement and supply chain when Kenya Power procured and fitted hundreds of defective transformers among other procurement faults.

Interestingly, he testified against nine suspects including Tarus, who was in April accused of conspiring to commit an economic crime by failing to comply with procurement procedures and guidelines.

This resulted in the fraudulent payment of Sh159 million to companies un-procedurally pre-qualified to offer labour and transport services.

Ngugi also survived the June 2018 Presidential directive that required all heads of procurement and accounting units in ministries, departments, agencies, and state corporations to step aside for fresh vetting.

His appointment is said to be a well-crafted move to ensure an insider remains in charge of the utility firm, which has entered into power purchasing deals with independent producers and token vendors, multi-billion deals which benefit some individuals.

This is in the wake of a rising installed generating capacity, currently at about 2,370 MW against a peak demand of about 1,770MW, which has seen Kenyans continue paying billions to power producers in un-used electricity.

Last Tuesday, Kenya Power chairman Mahboub Maalim remained unbowed on revealing details of the recruitment process raising transparency questions. He, however, insisted the process was transparent and fair.

“Job application is a personal thing. We cannot begin to disclose the number of applicants,” Maalim said, “The process was fair.”

This is unlike other state parastatals where the recruitment process is open, including the number of applicants and shortlisted candidates.

"We believe that Ngugi will see the company through an important stage of its development and growth as we work to diligently implement all our plans to strengthen the company and the commercial aspects of our business,” the board said.

On his appointment day, Kenyans took to social media with different views.

“If this guy has been in this corrupt company for 30 years, I expect nothing new, same old. He is just there to take care of some peoples' interests,” said one Moses Ngugi.

Activist Okiya Omtatah is said to be considering moving to court to challenge the appointment, sources close to him hinted yesterday, though he remained tight-lipped on his move.

  “I review all the chief executives' appointment but I am yet to review that one (Kenya Power),” he told the Star.