National Oil board sends CEO on forced leave

Monday February 1 2016

National Oil chief executive Sumayya Hassan-Athmani said the firm's long-term goal is to develop a large pool of skilled professionals.  PHOTO | FILE

National Oil chief executive Sumayya Hassan-Athmani. PHOTO | FILE 

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The managing director of National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock), Sumayya Hassan-Athmani, has been sent on compulsory leave.

It is understood that the board, which was constituted in May, is demanding a full audit of the corporation’s operations in light of a Sh270 million loss booked for the half year period of the current financial year.

Sources privy to the activities at the corporation say that the board had ordered for a forensic audit to be carried out by November last year but it failed due to “interference by management”.

“We felt that for an audit process to take place it was necessary to have the CEO step aside. As soon as the exercise is completed, we will engage her on the way forward,” said a board member who spoke to Daily Nation on condition of anonymity.

There are no specific accusations that have been levied against Ms Sumayya even as her fate at the helm of Nock remains unknown.

Attempts to get a comment from Ms Sumayya failed as she neither responded to calls or a text message from Daily Nation.

Sumayya was in her second term in office running for a period of three years after then cabinet secretary for energy and petroleum Davis Chirchir renewed her contract starting April 1, 2014.

Mr Chirchir’s move was faced with criticism especially from the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) which had at the time petitioned the head of public service and the Auditor General for a special audit of the corporation.

However, in an interview with the Nation at the time, Mr Chirchir maintained that his decision to renew Ms Sumayya’s contract was influenced by the need to maintain a gender balance in appointments of heads of parastatals within the energy and petroleum docket.

Achieve gender balance

“We were keen on giving the job to a lady so that we can achieve gender balance in management of parastatals within this ministry,” said Mr Chirchir.

At the time, Nock was the only energy sector parastatal headed by a female chief executive after Laurencia Njagi, former company secretary for Kenya Power had declined to take up appointment to head the energy regulatory commission.

Meanwhile MaryJane Mwangi has been appointed as the acting chief executive officer at Nock. Until this appointment, she worked at the corporation as the general manager in charge of downstream operations.

Last year, Nock won a lucrative deal to supply fuel lubricants and bitumen to government ministries and agencies in an exclusive arrangement that locked out private oil marketers.

The directive giving supply rights to Nock was issued through a letter written by chief of staff and head of the public service Joseph Kinyua to principal secretaries and copied to cabinet secretaries on April 30, 2015.

The directive meant that private dealers were locked out of the Sh300 billion, 10,000 kilometre annuity road construction project that was planned for implementation and which was bound to consume tonnes of bitumen.

In the past, Nock has been on the spot for irregular procurement procedures involving some of its senior managers.

In August 2012, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) recommended to the DPP that Nock’s managing director, Ms Sumayya and her then supply manager Maimuna Kassim be charged with abuse of office after it was found that they did not follow the law in contracting a firm to supply diesel.

EACC accused the duo of using direct procurement as opposed to open tendering to identify the company that was supposed to supply the product.

Ms Sumayya’s temporary exit from Nock comes at a time when other changes to the management of parastatals within the energy sector are under implementation.

Ms Sumayya’s temporary exit from Nock comes just weeks after Flora Okoth who has been acting as managing director of the Kenya Pipeline Company proceeded on leave under unclear circumstances and was replaced by Joe Sang also in acting capacity.