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Focus on Energy minister amid leadership vacuum at key firms

Focus has now shifted to Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter as seven out of Kenya’s 10 energy parastatals are currently rudderless — without substantive chief executives or with managing directors heading to the retirement age of 60.

Even the Energy Regulatory Commission, the sector’s regulator, has an acting boss following the exit of Mr Joe Ng’ang’a a fortnight ago.

Having acting chief executives slows implementation of projects as crucial decisions cannot be taken by one in that capacity.

The list of State-backed energy firms with acting chief executives include Kenya Power’s Kenneth Tarus, MaryJane Mwangi (National Oil Corporation of Kenya), Collins Juma (Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board), and Charles Nguyai (Kenya Petroleum Refineries).

Mr Robert Pavel Oimeke, previously the director for renewable energy at the regulator, is now the acting director general at ERC pending fresh recruitment.

The Rural Electrification Authority chief executive Ng’ang’a Munyu is due to leave the agency this year when he hits 60.

KenGen’s Albert Mugo was in January given a one-year extension to his contract, meaning he will also be exiting the power producer later this year to pave the way for a smooth transition.

Mr Keter said he had instructed the boards of the energy corporations to open the search for new CEOs and forward to his office the names of finalists.

“It’s just a coincidence that they have all fallen vacant at the same time. We’re working on it,” Mr Keter said in an interview with the Sunday Nation.

In April, the Energy minister appointed three chief executives and gave them three-year tenures.

Mr Keter confirmed Mr Fernandes Barasa, who had been acting at Kenya Electricity Transmission Company since August 2015, and Mr Joe Sang, who was acting head of Kenya Pipeline beginning January 2016.

Mr Johnson ole Nchoe was picked to head the Geothermal Development Company.

KENYA POWER’S VISION
The current leadership crisis mirrors the situation in 2013 when half of the energy parastatals — Kenya Power, KenGen, Kenya Pipeline, ERC, and REA — had interim bosses.  

The State-owned energy firms play a critical role in the economy.

Having acting chief executives constrains their ability to perform key roles.

Kenya Power is implementing a $2.17 billion (Sh217 billion) five-year plan to modernise its ageing infrastructure to curb electricity transmission losses, frequent power outages, and theft.

The impending vacuum at REA is likely to frustrate the agency’s Sh208 billion masterplan of lighting up Kenya’s last mile off-grid areas by constructing solar and diesel hybrid plants, sub-stations and power lines, as well as connecting public utilities such as schools and markets to the grid.

KenGen has also unveiled multibillion-dollar projects to deliver an additional 706 megawatts by 2020.

The power producer currently has a capacity of 1,623MW.

The 60-year retirement age set by a landmark Industrial Court ruling has dealt the biggest blow to the energy agencies, having already cut short the careers of two chief executives and looks set to claim another.

Last November, Industrial Court Judge Nelson Abuodha issued orders stopping the renewal of Kenya Power CEO Ben Chumo’s term on the basis that he had hit the retirement age of 60, forcing him to exit the utility firm on January 4, 2017.

Three weeks later, Mr Ng’ang’a left ERC after attaining the age of 61, though he hadn’t finished his term.

EXIT OF CEOs
REA’s board of directors is due to meet soon to decide the fate of Mr Munyu, who turns 60 this year, given that he was born in 1957.

He has been at REA’s corner office since July 2013.

National Oil has been without a substantive managing director following the exit of Sumayya Hassan-Athmani in July last year.

Ms Mwangi, acting boss at Nock, was the general manager in charge of downstream operations — marketing, distribution and retail of products.

Mr Juma has been the interim head of the nuclear energy agency for more than a year, following the exit of Mr Ochilo Ayacko, whose contract ended in December 2015.

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