Shake-up at KPA as acting chief executive Mwangemi set for exit

When Standard Group CEO Orlando Lyomu presented a gift to John Mwangemi the  Acting Managing Director Kenya Ports Authority when he payed a courtesy call at his office in Mombasa. [File, Standard]

The government has started the search for a new Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director with the acting boss John Mwangemi set for exit by early next year, Saturday Standard has learned.

Mr Mwangemi confirmed yesterday he is exiting to pursue “something else” in the latest shakeup at the troubled State agency.

“I am moving on to something else,” he told Saturday Standard on phone as he revealed he will stay away from the planned recruitment process.

He did not reveal how long he will stay on but said he will not apply for the substantive role.

The KPA board said in a notice yesterday that it is seeking to recruit “an individual with high degree of integrity and professionalism, impeccable administration capabilities and strategic orientation” to fill the position of managing director.

“An attractive remuneration package and benefits await the successful candidate,” said KPA.

Satisfactory performance

The appointment is on contractual terms for three years and is renewable based on satisfactory performance and business requirements.

Mr Mwangemi will be the fourth managing director to quit the crucial cash-rich ports agency since 2018.

KPA, which has for years been rocked by tender wars and internal wrangling, has proved a revolving door for top executives and board members.

Mr Mwangemi, a veteran diplomat who once served as Kenya’s ambassador to Djibouti and Rwanda, took over from Rashid Salim in July last year.

Eng Salim had also been serving in an acting capacity since March 28, 2020, and took over from Daniel Manduku, who resigned following graft allegations.

Manduku had served as the managing director for about two years after taking over from Catherine Mturi-Wairi in 2018.

Mturi-Wairi, the first woman KPA boss, was appointed in 2016 and served until May 2018.

The looming changes come as President William Ruto continues to tighten his grip on levers of state since he took over power on September 13.

Senior roles

The ongoing shake-up in government is seen to put Ruto loyalists into senior roles with former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies kicked out of government.

The KPA board had earlier conducted two interviews for the MD position, but former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani rejected the names.

KPA this week had to respond to accusations that it had altered tender guidelines for a multi-billion-shilling special economic zone (SEZ) project at Mombasa port with a view to rigging it in favour, terming the claims “baseless”.

Mwangemi, in response to The Standard queries on Wednesday, said the Sh39-billion project’s procurement plan had been above board and was approved by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding the project.

“This is an important project for our country and everything is being done above board,” he said. “Any aggrieved parties should follow the right channels for redress.”

Tender period

Some bidders had alleged KPA has moved to amend the terms of eligibility for the SEZ at Dongo Kundu in a bid to rig the project in favour of an unspecified firm.

They alleged a plot to increase the tender period from the current five years to between 10 and 15 years to suit a particular company.

The tender involves the construction of a free trade zone, port, logistics hub and industrial zone.

Firms eyeing to use Mombasa Port would be allocated space to set up depots. 

Dredging of the berth will include widening and reclaiming of land for the project.

Mombasa Port is the gateway for landlocked countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

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