Ben Chumo has retired as the Managing Director of Kenya Power after attaining the age of 60.
This comes shortly after a court suspended a supposed renewal of his term.
Kenneth Tarus, the current General Manager in charge of finance, has been appointed as his successor in an acting capacity pending the completion of an ongoing recruitment.
Company Chairman Kenneth Marende, previously Speaker of Parliament, announced the executive changes yesterday before Chumo’s last contract date of Friday, January 6. Mr Marende dismissed the suit that was filed in court where the applicant, activist Okiya Omtatah, had sought to block the board from extending Chumo’s term.
“We have just learnt of the suit, but the board did not have any plans to extend Chumo’s term,” Marende said during the rather impromptu press conference yesterday afternoon. He added that the court case and the suspension granted by the court had no bearing on the board’s decision whose announcement was only a matter of time.
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Mr Omtatah told The Standard that he had intercepted documents, supposedly sent from the board, seeking Chumo’s clearance from the Ministry of Energy for extension of his term. His suit was, however, time-barred as his demands have been met outside of the court proceedings.
As part of documents filed in court by Omtatah, Kenya Power Board had last year in July sought permission from Energy and Petroleum CS to renew Chumo’s contract.
“...the Board before it proceeds to evaluate the applicant’s performance and make a recommendation to you Sir, is desirous that the Government grants permission or otherwise for the officer to continue to serve beyond 60 years of age,” reads in part a letter by Kenya Power Chair Kennedy Marende dated July 11, 2016. The Board sought approval since Kenya Power is a parastatal, 50.1 per cent owned by the Government.
Chumo said he had just attained the maximum retirement age and that it was not possible to continue heading the utility provider. “I could not under the law continue working for the public company since I have attained the age of retirement but I intend to go into teaching,” said the former MD, who termed his term as successful in achieving wider electricity connectivity across the country.
Among the successes he listed are the reduction of the fuel cost component of the price of a unit of electricity from Sh7.22 when he came to office to the current Sh2.34 – a reduction that is however attributable to further development of alternative sources including the cheaper geothermal wells.
He sought to dispel fears that the current drought could cause a sharp increase in the cost of electricity for consumers, citing that the current mix of geothermal, hydro and wind sources was sufficient to avert heavy reliance of thermal generation.
“We do not expect to see much changes in terms of electricity prices,” Chumo said. He who could have let the thinking of the board out when he cited Tarus as the best possible successor. “We will support the decision of the board,” said the outgoing MD, adding that “..there could never been a better choice for the new chief executive”.
Dipping water levels in the major dams which power hydro generators has caused major concerns about the likelihood of costlier power and bigger electricity bills. Rising prices of crude oil in the international markets could further increase the cost of diesel, compounding the problems of the drought.
One more year at KenGen
Hydro is the cheapest source of electricity but when water levels at the dams dip, diesel power plant firms are called upon to plug the deficit.
Despite producing the most expensive power, thermal plants are however highly flexible as they can be switched off when they are not required and only powered back when needed.
The thermal plants have been scaled back in the last two years on sufficient rainfall and the completion of several geothermal wells around Naivasha.
Meanwhile, Eng Albert Mugo has been re-appointed as the Managing Director of Kenya Electricity Generating Company.
“Mugo will be in office for another one year with effect from January 4, 2017,” KenGen Chairman Joshua Choge said in a statement Wednesday.