Kenya: Back to the Future with Parastatal Appointments?
Monday, 11 November 2013
Media reports indicate that President Kenyatta is will bring back a number of political and other players from the previous administration to head key parastatals:
  • Francis Muthaura, the former Head of the Civil Service, is to be appointed chairman of the Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project.
  • George Muhoho, Kenyatta’s uncle and former Kenya Airports Authority Manager, has been named as the new CEO at energy distributor Kenya Power, to succeed Eddie Njoroge who now serves as an energy advisor to Kenyatta.
  • Former Matuga MP Ali Chirau Mwakwere, who also held cabinet positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of Transport and of Mining, is scheduled to become the chair of the Kenya Ports Authority.
  • Sammy Choge, a party officer of Deputy President William Ruto’s URP, has been named as the new chairman of energy generation parastatal Kengen.
  • Former Kamukunji MP Simon Mbugua has been named to become the new head of the Kenya Betting Board.
  • Former Isiolo South MP Abdul Bahari is under consideration to become chair of the underperforming National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
  • Former Kikuyu MP Lewis Nguyai has been named as the next chairman of the Kenya Leather Authority
  • The proposed appointments are part of the reform process in the parastatal sector, but are disappointing for a number of reasons:
  • Not only are the appointees overwhelmingly of Mr Kenyatta’s ethnic group, but one of them is even a family member.
  • There are justified doubts whether politicians – who Mr Kenyatta appears to have owed a ‘thank you’ - have the technical competencies to run parastatals, some of the crucial in Kenya’s infrastructure and development plans.
  • The nomination of Muthaura – who had previously reportedly sought to leave the civil service due to ill health – and Muhoho also raised the question whether Kenya doesn’t have younger, fresher talent. It was during Muhoho’s tenure at the aviation authority that crucial, basic improvements at the country’s main airport were overlooked, contributing to the devastating fire in August 2013. It was also under his tenure that much needed rehabilitation and expansion plans were repeatedly delayed.
When composing his government, Mr Kenyatta emphasized that he would only appoint professionals rather than politicians to create a technocratic government. He broke this rule by bending to political necessity, and to date, the two politicians who had been included in his line up already ran into problems: Former Mwita MP and now cabinet secretary for mining NajibBalala is accused of asking mining firms for cash in order to renew suspended licenses. Former Kitui Central MP Charity Ngilu, now cabinet secretary for lands, is embroiled in a row over the illegal appointment of Peter Kahuho as the Director General of Lands in her ministry, a non-existent position. Her previous tenures as minister for health and minister for water have also been accompanied by corruption allegations.If confirmed, these appointments are clearly a step backwards. 

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