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Court suspends Water harvesting board CEO's term

By Jacob Ng'etich | May 26th 2021

National Water Harvesting Authority Chairman Erick Okeyo after signing the MOU with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi where both parties agreed to collaborate on development of water infrastructure.[Standard]

A High Court in Nakuru has suspended the extension of the term of an acting water agency Chief Executive Officer for six months.

Judge Hellen Wasilwa of the Employment and Labour division granted a stay order on the board meeting that extended CEO Sharon Obonyo's contract at the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority (NWHSA).  

"It is hereby ordered that in the absence of the respondent even though served, the leave sought do operate as a stay in implementation of the resolution of the 3rd Special full board of directors of NWHSA held on 28th April, 2021, together with extension letter of acting CEO... pending hearing of the application," read Judge Wasilwa's order.

The application had been sought exparte by David Ngure.

In April, a divided board awarded Ms Obonyo a third extension of six months against the government Mwongozo regulations in a meeting that a source said a section of directors were allegedly intimidated and coerced by top ministry officials to hand the acting CEO another term.

The letter appointing Obonyo as CEO in acting capacity was signed by a board member Walubengo Waningilo contrary to the norm where it is signed by the chairman. 

The source said the chairman did not sign the resolutions as this would have given credence to the illegal extension of the tenure of the Ag CEO. "This is in itself illegality for a member of the board to purport to sign an appointment letter to the CEO while the chairman is there. We will not accept this as it will open a pandora's box for legal redress by whoever wants to challenge the process of appointment," the source added.

A letter ref NWHSA/CLS/BOD/FIL/01/VOL11/(78) written by Obonyo and dated April 26, invited the full board for a meeting at the authority's offices to deliberate on the position of acting CEO and acting general managers.

Obonyo was appointed acting CEO on April 28, last year and her tenure extended on October 28 2020 for a further six months.

Mandated to develop national public waterworks for storage, flood control and infrastructure, the water agency has largely been involved in power struggles.

Created under the Water Act No. 43 of 2016 and came into effect on April 21, 2017 the intrigues surrounding its leadership continue to deepen.

A ruling by Judge Wasilwa in December 2020, ordered the authority to appoint Andrew Wanyonyi or Ali Boru as the CEO. 

"A declaration that the recruitment process ensuing from re-advertisement for the position of Chief Executive Officer, referenced NWHSA/2018/2019/01 dated 11 June 2019 met all constitutional and legal requirements and /or was conducted in strict compliance of all laws and this valid," read part of the ruling. 

The case filed by Gedi Mohamed of Gedi and Associates had sought to block NWHSA from re-advertising the CEO job after the interviews were conducted and three names presented by the board to the Water Cabinet Secretary for the appointment.

During the period, the top candidate died. The developments forced the board re-advertise the position but a petitioner Mohamed Abdullahi successfully challenged the matter in court.

Justice Wasilwa ruled that any interview that is not that of June 2019 for the position of NWHSA CEO would be null and void.

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