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Kenya Power picks insider to restore spark at troubled firm

By Macharia Kamau | October 30th 2019
Kenya Power Chairman Mahboub Maalim (right) congratulates newly appointed CEO Bernard Ngugi during a press conference. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenya Power has settled for an insider to steer the firm out of the myriad challenges that it faces, top among them declining revenues and loss of confidence among electricity consumers.

Bernard Ngugi, who has been with the power retailer for 30 years, will replace Ken Tarus, who was kicked out last year following his arrest and charge with corruption in a case that is still ongoing.

The corruption purge at the electricity distributor in July last year saw the entire management team face the same fate as Mr Tarus. Since then, almost all senior managers have been interim, led by Jared Othieno as the acting chief executive.

Mr Ngugi, who has been the general manager (GM) for supply chain, is one of only three top managers who survived last year’s corruption clean-up by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

The others were GM Internal Audit Charles Cheruiyot and GM Kenya Power International Limited Jeremiah Kiplagat.

Kenya Power Board Chairman Mahboub Maalim said the new chief executive had experience in areas that would come in handy if the firm’s dwindling fortunes were to be turned around.

“His areas of expertise are revenue collection, internal audit and supply chain management, which in the board’s view are critical and core to Kenya Power at this point in time,” he said.

“We have had diminishing revenues, serious financial issues that need to be addressed and the board decided to give this expertise a chance to address these challenges.”

Takes reins

He takes the reins at a time when Kenya Power is facing difficulties, including declining revenues. The company issued a profit warning for the year to June, indicating that earnings would fall by at least 25 per cent - the second year in a row that the firm had reported such a drop.

The company has also been facing a backlash from its customers, with last year’s complaints of backdated charges and alleged overbilling among consumer issues that the new boss will have to deal with.

Ngugi beat 70 other applicants for the job, including several colleagues currently serving in management. The consultant charged with the selection shortlisted 12 people, out of which six names were forwarded to the board.

Kenya Power also said it has started to recruit the other members of management in the course of this year. Yesterday, the firm advertised for the nine general manager positions, with interested candidates expected to submit applications by November 12.

“There has been an acting management team but we are in the process of ensuring that there are substantive officials. We now have a substantive chief executive… the other GMs will be appointed in the course of this year,” said Mr Maalim.

Ngugi said his focus is to grow profits and restore customer confidence.

“My immediate focus is to lead the company into improved profit and ensure the sustainability of the business… we have a big task in ensuring that the king, who is the customer accepts us again,” he said.

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