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Vacuum at Communications Authority as seven board members sent packing

By David Ohito and Frankline Sunday | Published Sat, February 6th 2016 at 00:00, Updated February 5th 2016 at 21:35 GMT +3
Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Headquarters in Nairobi. The regulator’s board was yesterday disbanded. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

The Communication Authority of Kenya has sent its board of directors packing in a shocking move that has elicited protest.

In documents seen by Weekend Business, the affected board members - Peter Mutie, Grace Munjuri, Hellen Kinoti, Kipsang’ Choge, Ken Nyaundi, Levi Obonyo and Beatrice Opee have now written to the new Minister for Information, Communication and Technology Joe Mucheru, seeking his intervention, alleging sinister motive.

Board chair Ngene Gituku yesterday said the action was necessitated by CA’s withdrawal from a case in which minister for ICT had been sued for faulting procedures of appointment after two people moved to court to challenge the minister that the authority’s board was not properly constituted.

“I am not the appointing authority. I am just a messenger conveying the message of the Minister and the Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai that the board stands dissolved,” Mr Gituku said.

The documents said in part: “The Ministry has received advice from the AG to withdraw Notice of Appeal case number 157/2015, which arose from the decision of High Court declaring that the Board of the Authority was not properly constituted. Further, that the Ministry will initiate fresh appointments pursuant to the relevant statutory provisions and that existing board members will be free to apply.”

But in the letter sent to the minister and copied to the AG and Ombudsman Otiende Amollo, the affected directors protested the dissolution. “We find this move disturbing and unprocedural, given that the Board was reinstated by the Court of Appeal through Stay Orders, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal.” They argued that the board of directors have not met and approved any withdrawal of the notice of appeal. “It is not very clear why you would wish to go the direction of dissolving the Board when the law in KICA 2013 Section 6D provides clearly removal mechanisms for the Board.”

“We want to bring to your attention the fact that the workings of this board and its ability to stand its ground has not been pleasing to many, including the board chairman and management,” the documents said. The directors blamed their exit on partisan deals in which the directors rejected approvals sought for self-provisioning licenses that recommended Lancia and GoTV and deliberately excluded ADN (the consortium of Nation, The Standard and Royal Media).

When reached for comment, Mucheru said, “We made the decision under advice from the government counsel, the Attorney General, who told us that the chances of winning the case were slim and that is why we withdrew the appeal.” Mr Mucheru further said that the CA board will now be constituted afresh as per the legal provisions.

“The appointment of CA board is done in consultation with the relevant bodies from the private sector and we are going to have a meeting with them and chart the way forward. The current board members are allowed to re-apply,” he said.

The recent developments sound a death knell to the authority’s board which has lived a large part of its brief existence battling policy, legal and sometimes political battles. In 2012, the High Court nullified the re-appointment of the then Director General Charles Njoroge, leading to leadership vacuum at CA which was ended by the appointment of the current Director General Francis Wangusi.

Again in 2013, the then CCK board faced a legal suit primarily from the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) challenging the composition of the board which the later said lacked adequate consumer representation.

In October 2014, Secretary-General of the ICT Association of Kenya, Kamotho Njenga filed an application in court challenging the legality of the constitution of the board and the recruitment panel leading to May 2015 ruling by High Court Judge George Odunga which quashed the gazette notice on the appointment of the CA board of directors.

Then ICT CS Fred Matiang’i had maintained that the lawsuit challenging the legality of the board was frivolous and on advice of the Attorney General, lodged a formal appeal challenging the ruling by High Court Judge George Odunga.