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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Guessing game over KPA MD’s term extension

Kenya Ports Authority managing director Gichiri Ndua who was expected to exit his position early this year may after all be still in charge until 2016 if reports doing the rounds in Mombasa port are anything to go by. 
Unconfirmed reports indicate Ndua’s contract has already been quietly extended by a further two years dealing a huge blow to those who were lobbying to succeed him. Transport minister Michael Kamau is expected to soon confirm the reappointment via a Kenya gazette notice. 
It is not clear what the reactions would be if Ndua who hails from Kiambu will bag another two years. But going by the mood on the ground, the reappointment will be a disappointment to many. A section of Mombasa port stakeholders have been calling for changes at the top, claiming the MD had failed to make the harbour efficient in service delivery.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has himself not been happy in the manner the port of Mombasa is transacting business. More than once, the president had expressed concern over delays in clearance of cargo from the port of Mombasa to neighbouring landlocked countries. Congestion and pile-up of cargo has persisted inspite of numerous strategies to deal with the situation. Consultants including some from Nigeria have been hired to advise on the best way to deal with congestion but so far no tangible solution has been arrived at.
It is said the MD is pushing for privatisation of port services as the best cure for problems of delays and congestion at the Mombasa port. However, the concept is controversial especially at the Coast and the Jubilee administration cannot risk vouching for it as it would amount to political suicide in the region.
A few months ago, almost the entire Coast region was engulfed with anger after the launch of a charter by Uhuru Kenyatta at Mombasa port which later emerged was loaded with prescriptions of privatisation. The charter prepared by a private company which calculates to land a contract to run the Mombasa port proposed the privatisation of berths, stevedoring services among others. The charter further proposed that KPA be transformed to a landlord status.
These proposals were however met with resistance from stakeholders among them workers, Mombasa business people, Mombasa county government and the entire Coast political class. The charter’s implementation has thus been slowed and it is believed Ndua is the brainchild and must have advised the minister for Transport to convince the president to launch it.
It was later claimed, the head of state may not have been well briefed about the charter’s proposals especially on the part that would see thousands of jobs lost. Uhuru had earlier made a commitment that the port of Mombasa would not be sold as it belonged to the people of Kenya.
In his first visit to the port immediately after the last general elections, Uhuru said he wanted the port to be the most efficient in service delivery to clients.
But what if Ndua’s term is not extended? According to observers, if the port slot falls vacant, KPA top managers with Masters degrees will be the frontrunners. Among them is Harbour Master and GM Operations Twalib Khamis. He is held in high regard by his peers and workers like him. Being of Coastal origin, he has an added advantage. The GM engineering services Joseph Atonga is equally a strong contender. He is a likeable character within port circles and has mastered the port operations.
There is also a Nyarandi and Samata. The former is GM corporate services and the latter GM infrastructure development. It is claimed the duo have been running a quiet campaign for the post. 
And from outside port, a top county official is pushing a certain local businessman to land the post while a cabinet secretary is secretly campaigning for a former contender for a local political seat to be appointed.