Year that promises to sweep away industry captains
The New Year could see a facelift of leading veteran industry captains as their terms come to an end.
Whether they will leave or have their terms renewed will depend on the specific institutions they work for and how they posture their success at the helm. Their political connections, networks as well as and expediency could also weigh in as final determinants as to whether they will still hold the corner office.
In June, the changes will test the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) leadership where both the Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge and his deputy, Sheila Mmbijewe have come to the end of their four-year tenure.
The wave of change may also sweep to the taxman’s doorstep where the Commissioner General John Njiraini whose term had ended but got a rare extension.
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The term of Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) Francis Wangusi comes to an end in June this year, more than a year after the die was cast for his exit when he survived by a breath of hair in January.
The Rural Electrification Authority has also been in limbo since the expiry of its chairman Simon Gicharu in June this year.
Last year, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s Chief Executive position fell vacant following the expiry of Mr Halakhe Waqo’s six-year non-renewable contract. He is to be replaced by Twalib Abdallah Mbarak.
In the corporate world, Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore’s extended tenure ends August 2019 after his contract was extended in 2017 for two years.
This also applies to Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz’s contract is set to run out this year if the airline does not renew his contract.
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For the CBK, the first tenure has been tumultuous. Dr Njoroge refused to give his opinion of what he thinks is his legacy and whether he will be viewed favourably by President Uhuru Kenyatta when his time comes at the helm of the bank of last resort.
“There is no legacy here, hapa ni kazi tu,” Dr Njoroge said in his last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) press briefing in 2018.
His choice of quote is curiously drawn from Tanzania’s President John Magufuli whose tagline and public press-ups drew him popularity but has since turned authoritarian and abrasive.
Could the same be said of Kenya’s CBK boss endeared for his International Monetary Fund background, celibacy and lack of interest in worldly wealth?
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His first tenure can be gauged at face value where he has managed to keep the shilling below the psychological mark of 107 units against the dollar in October 2011 that gave shade to his predecessor – Prof Njuguna Ndungu’s career.
Dr Njoroge has also been able to change the image on the currency, albeit coins with notes printing cleared by the Court of Appeal expected to follow soon.
The Governor has also kept inflation in check relatively – and with the help of government subsidies, managed to rope inflation down when it slipped to 11.7 per cent in May following the drought.
For the rogue industry, the CBK Governor approached it with the meekness of a ‘monk’ unimpressed by bribery and the strong arm of the law. This led to the closure of three lenders in tow – Imperial Bank, Chase Bank, and Dubai Bank.
But does he regret the move? Three years down the line, depositors have only been able to get a fraction of their money taking away the grace of historical record of brokering the first carve out a deal.
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He promised hell and brimstone for the bandits who brought the lenders down, instead, they have proven tenacious in waiting him out.
There is a high chance of his return and possibly pursuing them through the myriad of court cases tied up like a yarn. His currency stability has essentially allowed the government to continue borrowing without exposure to currency risk and has earned him an applause from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Thanks to your hard work and commitment our shilling has remained stable and competitive,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said during the launch of the new coinage.
While commenting on CBK’s freedom, President Kenyatta insisted on ‘operational independence’ but added that inherently the institution must cooperate with the executive.
However his deputy Dr Sheila Mmbijewe may not be as lucky. She has attained retirement age, clocking 60 years. The CBK deputy governor, a Kenyan, was born on March 6, 1958, in Kampala, Uganda.
The London trained accountant stayed put because the bank of last resort is operating with only one deputy in disregard to provisions to have two deputies according to Central Bank of Kenya Act Cap 491 Section 13B (1).
Dr Mmbijewe, seen as a direct hand of the ‘house on the hill’ in the money printing fortitude and powerful behind the scenes as an enforcer of the shilling stability may only be saved if Mr Kenyatta can convince Parliament that she has ‘special scarce skills’.
“Retirement age is 60 in public service. However, one can work on contract with approval of the board and Cabinet Secretary after 60 if they have specialised scarce skills,” former Public Service Commission chairperson Margaret Kobia – now Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs said in February 2016.
But perhaps the State official who has defied the age rule, trounced his own board, fought a nail-biting court battle, brushed shoulders with the Ombudsman over involvement in politics and still managed to keep his job is Mr Njiraini. Even the Auditor General Edward Ouko said the KRA boss was in office illegally in his audit report as of June 30, 2017.
Born in 1957 according to official records, Mr Njiraini has already overstayed his welcome but soldiered on with blessings of the highest office.
The former Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya boss rose to the post of Commissioner for Domestic Taxes and Large Taxpayers in 2006. When the KRA Commissioner General, Michael Waweru bowed out in 2012, President Uhuru Kenyatta was then minister of Finance.
In 2015, the board renewed Mr Njiraini’s contract for a three-year term, which and was supposed to end on March 4, 2018. This came three months after he hit the retirement age of 60 last in December 2017.
Then the intrigues started and the board gave him two months’ notice, which was to see him leave by July 2018, in spite of a one-year extension granted in March.
This attempt fell flat on its face after President Kenyatta intervened and kicked out the board chaired by Dr Edward Sambili and included Evans Kakai, Ms Constance Kandie, Rashid Ali and Abdi Barre Duale.
Activist Okiya Omtatah also fell apart after the courts ruled that Mr Njiraini was on a fixed term contract which is permissible under Section 80(2) of the PSC Act that was exempt from the age limit.
He had sidestepped the ombudsman’s accusations of directly taking part in politics contrary to Public Officers Ethics Act when he attended a fundraising party of the Friends of Jubilee famed for raising Sh15 million in record five minutes.
But while some State bosses found the privileges and benefits of their offices too sweet to leave, one Francis Wangusi has had to fight on to even finish his term. Mr Wangusi had headed the CA since 2012.
He was re-appointed the Director-General of the authority for a four-year term effective August 22, 2015, but early 2018, he was kicked out.
For the long-serving boss, Wangusi had brushed shoulders with the powerful, dined with some and stepped on the feet of some.
And when his day of reckoning came, they came ‘shooting’ in all directions. While he was accused of “malpractices” in staff training and promotions at the telco regulator, underlying issues cropped up.
Airtel had won a Sh2 billion license battle against CA and the National Treasury, and his tenure was also bogged by controversy for awarding Jamii Telecoms, a tier two telecommunications operators of the Faiba brand, a license, and coveted spectrum to operate another mobile phone service for just Sh100,000.
The fight that boiled over eventually roped in the tug between CA and the ICT Ministry headed by Joseph Mucheru and former Broadcasting and Telecoms Principal Secretary Sammy Itemere.
The battles including the fight over the funding of Ajira Digital Programme, the creation of the Department of Cyber Security and E-Commerce and Sh25 million to fund President Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony were laid bare in court as the State aired its dirty linen in public.
He also linked his problems to the controversial competition study in the telecommunications industry – a feat he has turned to as a definition of his legacy. Mr Wangusi went to court and successfully quashed his suspension – reaching an out of court settlement with the board that will see him live out his full term that expires in August this year.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard following his surprise suspension, Mr Wangusi said he would revisit the Jamii telecom license issues before leaving office.
The CA has clarified saying the licence granted to Jamii was a one-year trial one and not an operating permit. However, the communications regulator granted the operator a year’s extension with the licence now expiring in March 2019 – meaning Jamii Telecom will now have to pay the Sh2 billion spectrum fees if they are to roll out services.
Another key item on Mr Wagusi’s agenda on his last months in office and one that caused him untold headaches in his final years is the protracted report on dominance in the telecommunications and broadcasting sector.
CA commissioned UK-firm Analysys Mason to carry out the multi-million study that would drastically change the regulatory environment bringing market leader Safaricom under fresh scrutiny by virtue of its market size.
The report was due for publishing and adoption last year. It remains to be seen the final tricks Mr Wangusi has saved up his sleeve. Former Safaricom boss Michael Joseph is also set to leave Kenya Airways after stewarding its board when the airline crossed the Atlantic and landed in America.
Together with the airline’s Polish boss Mikosz KQ has focused on cutting expenses including overheads and fleet ownership costs.
Mikosz’s term will also come up for review in 2019 according to the Company’s annual report.