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Ex-chief left high and dry at power firm

BUSINESS
By Moses Michira | October 31st 2019
Immediate former acting Kenya Power CEO Jared Othieno (right) with World Bank Senior Energy Specialist Laurencia Njagi (left) and Kenya Power technician during the launch of the live line maintenance programme in Nairobi. [David Njaaga/Standard]

Immediate former acting Kenya Power CEO has been forced to go on leave, having no specific role after being overlooked for position.

Jared Othieno’s future at Kenya Power has been left in limbo following Tuesday’s appointment of Bernard Ngugi as the substantive chief executive of the utility firm.

Othieno who had applied for the job failed to secure the top seat despite having held the position on an acting capacity for more than a year. He rose to the helm, thanks to a purge that saw senior managers suspended and dragged to court over procurement irregularities, leaving behind a leadership vacuum.

Mr Othieno, who was among the leading contenders for the top job on a permanent basis, has since proceeded “on leave”, unable to return to his previous position where he was also acting.

Questions now linger about his role in the firm as his return is likely to see him relegated at least two levels below the executive level of a “senior manager”.

Interestingly, his name had been dropped from the list of general managers on the company’s website by yesterday. His successor, Ngugi, previously the general manager for supply chain, was appointed by Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter after reportedly emerging top in the interviews done by Deloitte and Touché.

An outsider, who works with KenGen, is reported to have emerged second in the interviews ahead of Mr Othieno.

“I was not invited to this morning’s event, so I have taken time out to stay at home and rest,” he told The Standard on phone on Tuesday evening.

The appointment of Mr Ngugi came as a surprise to many, taking place hours after Mr Othieno had launched an ambitious electricity live line maintenance project on Monday worth Sh2 billion.

Profit warning

Through the project, engineers can conduct repairs without interrupting electricity supply by wearing heavily insulated gear. While Kenya Power has already issued a profit warning, meaning that its profit for the year ended June would be significantly lower than the previous period, the acting boss said the “numbers look good”.

Past policy and management blunders have sent the firm on a free fall in recent years, with rise in costs outpacing growth in revenues. The firm’s financial results are awaiting the input of the Auditor General whose selection is ongoing before the report is released.

Mr Othieno was unaware that the board had last Friday passed the three finalists to Keter for appointment and that he stood the least chance, according to a board member.

“He is free to apply for the position he had been acting in where a vacancy had already been declared,” said the board member in confidence.

Mixed reactions have greeted Ngugi’s appointment, with questions still lingering on how he survived the purge that claimed nine senior managers, yet his office was at the centre of the questionable procurement that led to the move.

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