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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 14 December 2014

CANVASSING FOR OUTGOING KPA MD's POST STARTS IN EARNEST

 Canvassing for outgoing KPA MD’s post starts in earnest
Kenya Ports Authority managing director’s position is reportedly up for grabs after the term of the current holder, Gichiri Ndua, comes to a close early next year.
The post of a KPA MD is considered lucrative and its occupier wields substantial influence both in and outside government circles. Over the years, the appointment of KPA MD has always been national news. President Uhuru Kenyatta is reportedly keen to see the Mombasa port being the most efficient in service delivery to avoid loss of business to neighbouring ports.
Port users and stakeholders are reportedly unhappy that even after the president decided to personally intervene to make the port of Mombasa competitive in service delivery by putting other government agencies like KRA, Kebs, Kephis and police under the supervision of the port MD, nothing much has changed as the traditional delays in cargo clearance and other inefficiencies continues to soar and bite.
Ndua’s tenure has been characterised by a series of workers’ strikes arising from demands for better terms and conditions of service to opposing privatisation. Ndua is largely in favour of privatising port services, something employees including the MD’s fellow managers are against.
For instance, the MD caused annoyance when he was quoted in a section of the media saying the port of Mombasa could only be efficient if privatised, a statement that drew instant harsh criticisms from the Dock Workers Union and other stakeholders who accused him of being the problem. They reminded the MD that none other than President Uhuru himself who had given a firm public assurance that the port of Mombasa will not be sold as “it belonged to the people of Kenya”.
The dock union’s general secretary Simon Sang has variously challenged Ndua to step aside if he was unable to transform the Mombasa port and make it profitable. At one time, Sang wondered why Ndua was ‘preoccupied’ with privatisation yet his predecessors like Brown Ondego had made the port of Mombasa one of the best in Africa in terms of service delivery without privatisation.
“What the Mombasa port requires is corporatisation and not privatisation. We agree that leadership in steering the Mombasa port to the required standards is lacking. The government should not shy away from making radical changes at the management level,” Sang had pointed out
Sources claim Ndua’s appointment to the MD post was made possible through the intervention of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. It is said Raila’s former Mombasa political financier and Grain Bulk tycoon Mohammed Jaffer who brokered the appointment after the late Njenga Karume approached him. Before his elevation, Ndua was KPA’s corporate affairs manager.
He was initially appointed in an acting capacity after the then MD James Mulewa was kicked out after an altercation with then transport minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere. After a few months, Ndua was confirmed without going through a competitive recruitment process as had been widely expected. His contract renewal too, caused a major storm among stakeholders after it was allegedly affected eight months in advance by then outgoing Transport minister Amos Kimunya. 
But even as the Kibaki administration exited and Uhuru took over, few expected Ndua to hold on for long as he has already done. At some point, there were loud claims that the MD had no time for TNA and URP supporters. At the time, the MD was accused of allegedly failing to show respect to people sent to him by Jubilee political leaders.
They claimed he listened more to cabinet secretary Francis Kimemia than he does for other leaders. However, it seems these allegations were ignored by the top leadership as they could not be backed by any evidence. 
Within port management, those being mentioned as likely successors of Ndua includes four KPA general managers namely Twalib Khamis, Joseph Atonga, Abduhahi Samata and Catherine Wairi.
Catherine is daughter of former KPA MD Jonathan Mturi. During the formation of the Jubilee cabinet, her name was mentioned as a potential nominee. Captain Khamis is a respected port manager with a wide range of experience in port matters. His role as the general manager operations is critical in the overall performance of the port. He has always been appointed as acting MD whenever Ndua is outside the country.
And for Atonga, he together with Capt Khamis are said to be the longest serving top port managers. Atonga’s name has featured for a long time as a potential MD. However, he is always bypassed in appointments over claims that he is a Raila sympathyser apparently due to his Luo origins. However,  those close to him say, even when Raila was prime minister, he had no time for him as evidenced by the way he bypassed him when appointments including at NSSF and Kenya Pipeline.   
Samata is also a strong contender even though the abrupt removal of immediate former KPA chairman Barmadi Shukri dealt his MD ambitions a major blow. Samata and Shukri are close buddies and it was expected as port chairman, he would have wielded influence to ensure his friend landed the coveted post. There are also plans to bring in an outsider as a KPA MD.
Meanwhile, there is also a scramble for appointment to the KPA board. It is said the government intends to overhaul the board and appoint new faces that will help to drive forward the KPA agenda in addition to detribalising its composition. In the past there have been complaints that the KPA board of directors was full of members from one region of Kenya.
The issue of the composition of the KPA board has always been an issue within Coast. Sometimes back, the matter landed in court courtesy of Coast Parliamentary Group but it is unclear how it ended. However, the appointment of Danson Mungatana, a coastal, as KPA chair has to some extent mollified the region and managed to cool the tempers.