CA board disbanded amid protests from members

Saturday February 6 2016

Attorney General Githu Muigai addressing partakers during the Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya convention on online child protection at Safari park Hotel in Nairobi on December 15, 2015. The CA board was on Friday disbanded following the AG's advice to withdraw an appeal challenging the court orders sending the team home. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM |

Attorney General Githu Muigai addressing partakers during the Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya convention on online child protection at Safari park Hotel in Nairobi on December 15, 2015. The CA board was on Friday disbanded following the AG's advice to withdraw an appeal challenging the court orders sending the team home. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By LILIAN OCHIENG'
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The Communications Authority board was on Friday disbanded following Attorney General Githu Muigai's advice to withdraw an appeal challenging the High Court orders sending the team home.  

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said the seven-member board ceased to be in office from Friday, and a process to establish a new team would start immediately. 

The regulator’s board was first disbanded by Justice George Odunga on May 29 last year owing to its illegality.

The board together with the then ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i moved to the Court of Appeal to contest the ruling. 

“When we have been advised by the Attorney General we cannot win the case, withdrawing the case then helps us to make sure that the regulator is well protected and we do not have such issues arise in future,” said Mr Mucheru by phone on Friday.

“The appeal that contested the ruling quashing the Gazette notice instituting the board has been withdrawn, this means we go back to the drawing board.” 

BOARD PROTESTS

The decision by the ICT Cabinet secretary has been termed abrupt by the seven board members who have held meetings as they seek to contest the case through a court process on Monday next week. 

The board members are Mr Wilbert Choge, Mr Ken Nyaundi, Ms Grace Munjuri, Prof Levi Obonyo, Ms Hellen Kinoti, Ms Beatrice Opee and Mr Peter Mutie. 

At a meeting on Friday to address the situation, the team said the manner in which the message was delivered to them did not adhere to the law.  

“I have today received a letter from the Ministry of Information Communications Technology indicating that the Ministry has received advice from the Attorney General to withdraw the Notice of Appeal in the above-mentioned subject which arose from the decision of High Court declaring that the Board of the Authority was not properly constituted,” said CA board chairman Ben Gituku in an email addressed to the board members.

The email was copied to the Director- General Francis Wangusi on Thursday evening.

“I’m consulting with the ministry to establish more details on the issue and will come back to you once I have more information.

In view of this development, it is not desirable to proceed with the board meeting scheduled for Friday and is, therefore, by copy hereof advising our management accordingly,” Mr Gituku said.  

RIPPLE EFFECTS

The disbandment of the board puts to a standstill operations at the CA, slowing its financial year’s targets.

Already, the authority had begun implementing a plan to close the ICT gaps in marginalised areas beginning this month.

Mr Choge, one of the board members, told Nation that the right process by the board chairman and the ICT Cabinet secretary would have been a court summon of all parties involved in the case, initiating withdrawal of the hearing. 

FORENSIC AUDIT

The board members say the move to disband the board comes after a forensic audit on CA spending, revealing massive misuse of funds, hence pressure by the chairman and management to do away with the board. 

“The present board has recently instituted two forensic audits on staff travel and compliance.

Preliminaries results show a lot of resources were squandered in unnecessary travel and lethargy in collection for compliance indicating compromise in collection,” said a statement by the board members.

“ If proper compliance was done, the Communications Authority would return to the exchequer three times the revenue that they currently do.”

Also the board is seen as a threat in the issue of Airtel Kenya’s license fee, “But what seems to have broken the camel’s back was the board insisting that Airtel Kenya should pay a total of Sh2.7 billion owed to the Authority in Licences.