Four cabinet secretaries and anti-corruption detectives stormed the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) offices at the Port of Mombasa to investigate corruption and massive cargo losses.
The presence of CSs Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Adan Mohamed (Industrialisation), Joe Mucheru (ICT) and James Macharia (Transport) on Friday, Saturday night and yesterday highlighted growing frustration by the Jubilee Government with operational inefficiencies at the port believed to be engineered to undermine the new standard gauge railway (SGR) freight services.
There are concerns that inefficiency, high level graft and cargo losses at the port and Inland Container Depot in Embakasi, Nairobi, increased with the introduction of the direct hauling of cargo between Mombasa and Nairobi through the SGR freight services since January.
Sources told The Standard on Saturday night that KPA Managing Director Catherine Mturi Wairi had to return to work in the night when Mr Adan suddenly arrived at the port only to be met by a logjam of cargo. The Standard established that the MD arrived at the port at 11.30pm and went straight to the new container terminal built by the Japanese, where Adan and his entourage were waiting pensively.
An official present quoted an angry CS telling the MD: “Why are we claiming the port is operating normally yet things are not working the way they are supposed to be?”
What transpired after this is not clear, but the CS and his group later met the MD and her key staff members at the terminal till 3am yesterday, before Adan left.
We established that Dr Mucheru joined the meeting at around midnight, and his role was to assess ineffectiveness of the port’s computer cargo clearing system.
Although the stated aim of transporting cargo through the new railway service at subsidised price was to speed services, officials have now discovered new and more complex problems, creating new avenues for cargo thieves, inefficiency and inadvertent losses. This has in turn strained relations with the Chinese government, which financed the SGR, and is keen to recoup its money through an effective railway and port transport system.
The CSs also gauged the Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Railways (KR), which operate in collaboration with the port to receive, transport and charge cargo at the port and Inland Container Depot in Nairobi.
Reports indicate that massive problems unearthed during the latest visit by the CSs will lead to sacking and redeployment of some individuals at the port in Mombasa and ICD in Embakasi as early as this week.
The Standard also established that part of the pressure for reforms at the port and KR is being exerted by the Chinese, who are frustrated by lack of progress and inability by these institutions to operate optimally in order to pay the loan used to finance the new railway.
The order to transport most cargo by the SGR train sounded a death knell to Container Freight Stations (CFS), but yesterday there was an indication they could get a new lease of life to assist the port to decongest the inland container depot.
Reports, however, indicate that the decision to give CFS a new role was to enable importers and Government to monitor movement of goods, which has deteriorated under the SGR regime.
Sources told The Standard Mucheru also questioned the ineffective IT system at the port. Dr Matiang’i and several State House officials were also reported to have joined the discussions.
[Report by Patrick Beja, Benard Sanga, Philip Mwakio and Willis Oketch]