Big tenders, one opened a day later, and the failure of Kenya Railways to attain "hasty" Presidential directives on Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) are to blame for the Wednesday night sacking of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) of MD Catherine Mturi-Wairi.
Ms Mturi-Wairi has served KPA for more than 25 years having joined as intern, served as General Manager Finance for 8 years and now 2 years as MD.
Efforts to reach her for comment failed. Her phone went unanswered. She could not even respond to our text messages.
But multiple sources gave us various accounts of what transpired a week to the sacking as well as what transpired on the material day. It sounds like a choreographed script directed by Transport PS Prof Paul Maringa.
Prof Maringa was first to arrive on Thursday and spent many days and nights at the port.
This had followed the total collapse of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) system countrywide. From the Times Tower to KPA, no one was spared.
When the KRA system failed, literally everything else stalled at the port. Panic spread far and wide.
Second to arrive was Industrialization CS Mr Adan Mohamed on Friday. He is said to have spent a lot of time at the port with his brother-in-law and influential businessman Faisal Abbas who runs Focus and Interpel CFS. Mr Mohammed is married to Abbas’ sister.
Interpel CFS handles containerized, motor vehicles and project cargo passing through the port for inland clearance.
On their website, Interpel boasts of “we are a one-stop clearance hub with all relevant Government Agencies stationed here to facilitate quick cargo clearance”. That cannot be any ordinary business and its’ influence on who runs KPA cannot be gainsaid.
Come Monday, it was the turn of the East African Community CS Mr Peter Munya. He is also said to have spent a lot of time at the port. It is not clear what role, if any, he had in the KPA sacking.
The conspicuous absence of the Transport Cabinet Secretary Mr James Macharia – although having received realtime daily reports from his PS Paul Maringa – was telling, to say the least.
Come Wednesday, a special board meeting which should have been chaired by nominated MP Mr Maina Kamanda’s son - Mr Michael Kamanda – only for the record – but sources say its PS Prof Maringa who chaired the meeting all through.
Government officers are not allowed, as per best practice and good governance, to chair such meetings even when all independent directors are absent.
Special board meetings normally have one agenda. If it is about sacking the MD, it cannot be done without a substantive chairman. A government director cannot chair such meeting.
The term of Mr Marsden Madoka, who was substantive KPA Chairman, ended in April, 2018.
Only 2 independent directors are left on the KPA board – Mr Michael Kamanda and Mr Valentine Mwakamba. The rest are representatives of Government – Kenya Railways, Ministry of Transport, Treasury and Solicitor General.
The special board meeting on Wednesday started at 11 am and ran until around 3.30 pm. It is said to have been acrimonious – with PS Maringa in a very foul mood. It was then that the MD and Corporation Secretary were asked to leave the meeting.
At around 4pm, the MD Ms Mturi-Wairi was called back to the boardroom. She was bluntly asked to resign or be fired. She reportedly asked for more time to consult. She was given 30 minutes. She reportedly left and didn’t return.
The board continued meeting and drafted two letters to the MD – one asking for show-cause and the other one asking her to show up the following day (Thursday) to hand over to her successor Architect Daniel Manduku. A media statement was issued around 9.30 pm that night.
“She was bullied badly. How can someone ask you to consult within 30 minutes for such a major decision? The writing was on the wall for her. It was long coming. A decision had already been made. But why didn’t Transport CS Mr James Macharia have negotiated her smooth exit? The man is either overwhelmed or unable to take charge of his Ministry”, said a source who didn’t wish to be mentioned.
Those in the know however say two key contracts – Kipevu Oil Terminal (KOT) and Berths 11-14 sealed her fate. The KOT tender was opened yesterday. Both technical and financials are now out.
Only late April, Toyo Construction Ltd of Japan was picked by KPA for phase two expansion of Container Terminal project. The Sh35 billion project is funded by JICA via a loan to be repaid over a 40 years period.
Toyo Construction Ltd local face is Mombasa businessman Mr David Lang’at.
Another main problem with the sacking of Ms Mturi-Wairi has to do with what our sources call “capacity challenges and incompetence” of Kenya Railways to implement “hasty presidential directives” on SGR.
“For instance, SGR is supposed to load 6 cargo trains from June 1. That is impossible. Kenya Railways bought 6 cranes at an estimated cost of Sh355 million each from China. They have all stalled after dropping containers. KPA stepped in. They are using KPA top-lifters and ganstries. KPA had asked Kenya Railways to find their own by June 15”, the source with inside information Cofek.
“Kenyans are being fleeced by KR over SGR but their failures and incompetence is blamed on KPA. Ask them, if the yard that holds cranes to lift the containers is sinking or not. It’s a scandal you can visit and see”, another source added confirming the trouble with KR over SGR and the impatient State House shenanigans.
Ms Mturi-Wairi has been facing increased pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta and Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to increase SGR cargo off-take and eradicate cartels.
In March President Kenyatta reportedly admonished Ms Wair at State House Nairobi, over what he termed as failure to dismantle cartels frustrating movement of cargo by SGR.
State House had decreed that KPA forces owners of cargo to have it collected in Nairobi –even when they want the same picked in Mombasa – quite a steep order to implement given its’ an unconstitutional order.
“Kenya Railways do not any marketing. They seem to have no competence either. How else would you expect such a failed agency to then expect that it is KPA supposed to lift their containers and bring them clientele? No one would succeed”, a member of KIFWA told Cofek.
It is not clear whether Ms Mturi-Wairi will sue to seek for compensation or whether she would be recalled after the compulsory leave as she has neither interdiction nor sacking letter.
“KPA is a strategic national and county asset. They have Sh42 billion turn over, a current budget of Sh44 billion with profits of an estimated Sh10 billion and an asset base of about Sh200 billion. How does the PS pick a fellow architect who was handling a budget of less than Sh5 billion in a year”, another source queried.
“We are worried they will sack us. We are told at least 3 General Managers and at least 20 other middle level managers will be fired. Who will protect us?”, said a staff member on strict call of anonymity