Confusion has rocked Kenya Ports Authority board and management after a court suspended the recruitment of a managing director. Acting on a petition by a human rights organization, Justice James Rika of the Mombasa Labour court has halted the ongoing process of filling the MD position left vacant after the exit of Daniel Manduku for a period of one month. Commission for Human Rights and Justice through its executive director Julius Ogogo is seeking court’s intervention to restructure the KPA board, saying current directors cannot be entrusted with the recruitment process due to infighting and past failures to tame acts of corruption at the authority.
“The current board as constituted cannot be trusted to recruit another managing director when it miserably failed to act on misappropriation of funds in the parastatal in the recent past,” says Ogogo in court documents. Ogogo further says that the petition in which KPA board, ministry of Transport and Attorney General are respondents, intends to safeguard the appointment process from threats, violation of constitutional values and precepts. Dock Workers Union which the court allowed to join the petition as an interested party has opposed it, saying further delays in the recruitment of a new MD is likely to affect services at the port of Mombasa.
The union through its general secretary Simon Sang says its members are currently faced with major issues that cannot be addressed with the absence of a substantive MD in place. After the court’s decision on Tuesday evening, section KPA directors blamed the board chairman, Joseph Kibwana, for taking issues lightly. It is claimed after the petition was filed several weeks ago, Kibwana had told concerned directors to ignore it and concentrate on matters ahead of them. At the same time, backers of current acting MD Rashid Salim are reported to have celebrated the Labour Court’s decision to temporarily halt the recruitment exercise.
Salim’s supporters are of the thinking that if the recruitment is delayed, their man will continue acting and eventually get confirmed to the post in a similar manner as former port MD Gichiri Ndua was recruited. It was, however, not immediately clear if Salim or his backers have a hand in the court petition fronted by the human rights lobby. Before the court struck a blow to the recruitment process, the KPA board was at the final stages of shortlisting 10 applicants ahead of the interviews. Sources say a total of 150 applications were received.
There were reports, that a top ministry of transport official was arm-twisting the KPA board to favour certain candidates in the selection. Some applicants for the lucrative KPA MD post who have allegedly spent heavily on board members and ministry of transport cartels are said to be crestfallen following the turn of events. The labour court has directed parties to the case to file and submit their arguments electronically before June 16, 2020