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Jockeying for influence behind the gift-to-Kibaki petrol station saga

Tuesday May 14 2013

 

By JAINDI KISERO

I hold no brief for retired President Mwai. But by alleging that the National Oil Corporation had donated a petrol station to the retired President, the five directors of the corporation who have made this claim shot themselves in the foot.

Just in case you have not followed the story, here is a brief on what has happened.

Five directors of the National Oil Corporation of Kenya recently wrote a letter to the Ministry of Energy in which they claimed that the CEO and chairman of the corporation had donated a petrol station to the retired president without their consent.

It was a surprising move by all accounts. Directors of parastatals do not write in this manner. Indeed, the best practice for directors aggrieved by decisions by the CEO and chairman is to call a special board meeting to discuss such issues.

The five directors would not follow such niceties. Instead, they fired off a letter in which they made the sensational claim.

“There is no law in this country that allows public assets to be donated to any person”, they said, describing the move as “illegal” and a case of “misappropriation of public funds”.

But what are the real facts in this saga? Is it a matter of fact that the corporation donated the petrol station to the retired president?

If so, where is it situated and who owns the land on which it is located?

These questions are especially pertinent because it has now emerged that no such deal had been transacted. Clearly, the five directors had jumped the gun.

This was pure board-room intrigue.

While it is true that the idea of donating a petrol station to the Mr Kibaki had been mooted publicly by the chairman of Nock, Mr Peter Munga, during a ceremony at which the retired president was being feted, the details of the transaction had not been worked out.

So, what is the root cause of the furore over the issue.

I attribute it to the jockeying and grandstanding which we must brace ourselves for as the power balance in the energy sector starts experiencing major shifts.
Shortly, a new Cabinet secretary will be coming in to take over from former minister Kiraitu Murungi.

Secondly, the CEO of KenGen, Mr Eddie Njoroge, who has been an influential player in the sector is also leaving the scene.

But even more significantly, long-serving and powerful Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr Patrick Nyoike, is stepping down.

A workaholic and acclaimed expert on energy issues, Mr Nyoike has bestrode the energy sector like a colossus for the last 10 years.

These changes are bound to disturb the power-brokers in the energy sector in major ways.

We must expect major realignments. If you were perceived to have the support of the out-going regime, directors and players with stronger links with the in-coming regime will start orchestrating games to supplant you.

This is the context in which the assault on Mr Peter Munga and the CEO of the corporation, Ms Summaya Athman, must be understood.

The petrol station gift is but a red herring. I expect the fight for control of the affairs of Nock to intensify in the coming months as well-connected operatives start scrambling for a piece of the action from the multi-billion projects it will be implementing.

Nock has a stake in all petroleum exploration activities going in Northern Kenya. It has Cabinet approval to import and store 30 per cent of the country’s oil requirements.

It is presently implementing a multi-million shilling off-shore jetty project whose feasibility study has been completed.

The company has performed very well in the last five years. Profits are up and petrol stations coverage has increased from 78 to 102 in the last two years.