Kenya Power board kicked out of House as key meeting aborts

Kenya Power and Lighting Company Board Chairperson Vivian Yeda when she appeared before the National Assembly Committee on Energy at the Parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Kenya Power board was on Thursday kicked out of Parliament after a stormy meeting with the National Assembly’s Energy Committee.

The committee had summoned the board over diverse issues affecting the power distributor. 

Some of the board members did not show up for the meeting, angering the MPs who accused the board of not taking its job seriously and disparaging the oversight role of the committee in the energy sector.

Following a heated exchange between the Kenya Power board chairperson Vivienne Yeda and some MPs, the committee chairman David Gikaria adjourned the meeting.

The board was expected to shed light on a wide range of issues, including the company’s financial performance, reported infighting between the board and management, as well as dealings between the company and Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Gikaria said in their capacity as members of the different sub-committees of the board, the directors would offer insights that would inform how Parliament and government can help the company get back in shape.

“We would like to hear what all the board members have to say about the different issues that the company is facing so that we can be able to make an informed decision… we cannot be able to do this today without the eight board members (excluding the managing director). We only have three who are physically present and one joining virtually,” he said.

“Kenya Power is the backbone of the power sector in Kenya. If it collapses, the sector will collapse. We also understand the importance of the company to the Kenyan economy.”

Gikaria said he would write to the board about another meeting, during which all board members are expected to be present.

Board chairperson Yeda refuted the MPs’ accusation of the board not taking its job seriously, saying they understand their mandate perfectly.  

“We are here to serve the country… and are aware that we have an important mandate. We do not need to be lectured about that,” she said.

The MPs were unsettled by the statement, terming some of the words “disrespectful.”

They demanded she withdraw and apologise over her use of the term “lectured.”

She explained that the absence of some of the board members was due to the short notice issued by the committee for the meeting.  

“We relish an opportunity to address you to state the facts. This board has always been able to convene. The only challenge this time was that we received the letter (inviting the board to meet with the committee) on Monday. We did not want to ask for more time because of important issues that need to be covered,” said Yeda. MPs had at a previous meeting kicked up a storm after Yeda and a few other directors failed to show up, although they went ahead with the meeting. The problems with the energy committee come even as the board is under probe by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over procurement malpractices and interference with management.

Six of the nine directors have since been grilled by EACC.

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