UNION CRIES FOUL

State plots to privatise port through merger of three agencies — union

General secretary Sang says the government is using the backdoor to leave the port in private hands.

In Summary

• Sang on Tuesday said President Uhuru is taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to bypass Parliament using executive orders. 

• Under Executive Order No.5 of August 7, Uhuru collapsed rail, pipeline and port operations under the yet-to-be formed Kenya Transport and Logistics Network.

DWU general secretary Simon Sang at the union offices on Tuesday
SUSPICION: DWU general secretary Simon Sang at the union offices on Tuesday
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Dock workers have claimed the planned merger of Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Railways Corporation and Kenya Pipeline is an illegal plot to privatise the Mombasa port.

Dock Workers Union general secretary Simon Sang on Tuesday said President Uhuru is taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to bypass Parliament using executive orders. He said the government is using the backdoor to leave the port in private hands.

“We are opposed to every kind of privatisation plan the government is trying to sneak in. Let them follow the right channel if they have good intentions,” said Sang in his union office.

 
 

Under Executive Order No. 5 of August 7, Uhuru collapsed rail, pipeline and port operations under the yet-to-be formed Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN), which will be overseen by the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC).  

Consequently, the National Treasury called for the consolidation of funds and assets of the three state agencies.

The ICDC, a government-owned financial institution, played a key role in growing local enterprises by advancing funds to them in its heyday.

In a statement, the Presidency said the KTLN would leverage the efficiencies and synergies of the agencies to achieve Kenya’s strategic agenda of becoming a regional logistics hub.

On Tuesday, Sang said the changes are similar to the attempted use of the Kenya National Shipping Line to hand over the port to a private entity.

“If they are genuine, let the matter go to Parliament, create a bill to structure operations. Any oversight body, like in South Africa and Singapore, must be established through a legislative arrangement,” he said.

He noted that already, a private company is overseeing the operations of the rail services on the standard gauge railway and expressed fears that the same company, owned by a Chinese company, with secret Kenyan minority shareholders, might be used to run the port.

 
 

“That is their end game. We will not accept that,” Sang said.

He warned that should there be no legislative arrangement over the matter in seven days, they will seek court orders to stop the move.

“We will be moving to court next week. All Mombasa MPs should come up with a bill to that effect if they truly represent the interests of residents,” the unionist said.

“We are seeing an arrangement where the Mombasa, Lamu and Shimoni ports and all the dry ports in the country will be privatised.”

Last Thursday, National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani said the budget for three state agencies would be combined to improve efficiency. He spoke at the introductory meeting of the newly appointed ICDC board at Harambee House, Nairobi.

"We will adopt the 'single operational entity' approach. With combined revenues and other funds in excess of Sh600 billion and combined assets in excess of Sh1.18 trillion, there is the internal capacity to fund the requisite investments going forward, resulting in reduced dependency on the exchequer," Yatani said.

According to Yatani, the ICDC will be restructured to strengthen its capacity and reorient it for its critical coordinating role.

President Kenyatta has since appointed John Ngumi to chair the ICDC board.

In May, the Treasury had considered merging the state-owned financial institution with IDB Capital Ltd and Tourism Finance Corporation to form the Kenya Development Bank.