Clerics criticise plan to privatise KPA services

Cargo at the Port of Mombasa. [File, Standard]

A plan by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to lease out some of its assets to private operators has continued to elicit criticism.

The clergy led by Bishop Tee Nalo said KPA was the single most important natural asset for Mombasa County and one of the most profitable state corporations, and it must be handled with utmost care.

“Whereas the national government may have powers to privatise or give concessions on state corporations like KPA and, whereas concessions in some cases may not be a bad thing depending on the terms of the privatisation or concession agreement. We are aware there is a procedure to follow before any of this is done,” said Nalo in a statement issued at the ACK Memorial Cathedral Church in Mombasa on Monday.

The clergy lashed out at KPA over its failure to involve local leaders before commencing the process.

"Why undertake such a serious matter and then purport to consult leaders later after voices have been raised? What is being hidden from the county leaders and the people of Mombasa?" Posed Nalo, adding that there was no feasibility study or public participation conducted.

The clergy said they opposed privatisation or concession because it was not being done procedurally and without the involvement of the county government.

"In this country, we are alive to the fact that things happen, and the leaders deny any wrongdoing, only for things to come to the light later after the damage has been done,” he stated.

They noted that they do not want to see a scenario where an investor comes in, and they would need 20-30 years to recoup their investment before locals start enjoying the benefits.

Mombasa is one of the counties getting little resources from the national government because of its size, and without putting into consideration the fact that during the day, it plays host to many people who only go to the neighbouring counties to sleep.

The clergy urged the national government that before contemplating privatisation or giving concessions on KPA, they must think of how the county can benefit monetarily from its resources.

“If there are any thoughts or plans on the privatisation or what is being called concession of KPA. We demand that they be stopped with immediate effect until (after) proper consultations are done,” said Nalo.

Taireni Mijikenda Association (TMA) urged KPA to extend the deadline for qualification of bidders for the development and operations of port assets for 60 days to give room for consultations between KPA, Ministry of Transport and stakeholders.

KPA had set the deadline for October 12 this year before the qualification documents are opened.

“Regardless of how good the intentions are in these proposed transactions, to an ordinary taxpayer, what is important is the full disclosure of how public interests will be protected against private interests,” said TMA chairman Peter Kadzeha.

Kadzeha explained that globally, port concessions or privatisation takes different forms, each with its own potential risks and opportunities.

“The absence of official information on the justification, process, context and content of the proposed type and model of port concessions or privatisation from the government, therefore, has led to necessary and unnecessary speculation by stakeholders who have become increasingly anxious and fearing the unknown,” said Kadzeha.

On Friday, KPA chairman Benjamin Tayari assured Coast leaders that they are not privatising the port but doing concessions that will result in more revenues and jobs.

On September 6, this year KPA Managing Director William Ruto invited bids for the development and operation of port assets through Public Private Partnerships.

Last year, Kenya Kwanza opposed a similar move, accusing Uhuru Kenyatta's regime of rushing to auction Kenya's strategic assets.