KENYA – Top management of agencies in charge of security and revenue collection at the port of Mombasa were Tuesday sent packing as President Uhuru Kenyatta moved to seal leakages and shore up customs tax receipts from the facility.
Those sent home include Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) managing director Gachiri Ndua, general manager operations Twalib Khamis, KPA board and legal services GM Catherine Muthoni Gatere, the head of security services Major (Rtd) Mohamed Morowa and the general manager for corporate services Justus Nyarandi.
Transport secretary James Macharia said Mr Ndua had been sent on mandatory leave and general manager for Finance Catherine Muturi picked to hold his position in an acting capacity.
“We are allowing the managing director who has already given notice to the board to proceed on terminal leave and send other officials on early retirement,” he said.
The minister said the shake-up sought to eliminate corruption cartels at East Africa’s busiest port and restore public trust in its operations.
Mr Macharia announced the changes at a Press conference in Harambee House Nairobi where senior police officers in charge of port security and senior customs officers based at the port and container freight stations were also moved in one of the biggest management shake-ups at the port.
Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner general John Njiraini said that two officials — Commissioner for Investigation and Enforcement Jonah Cheruiyot and the head of human resources, Rachel Monyoncho, had been asked to take early retirement.
“We have realised that our weakest area is in investigations and we have strengthened our operations to address the issue of staff discipline. We are also looking to recruit commissioners for investigations who can professionalise intelligence collection,” he said.
Mr Njiraini said the agency had replaced 13 key managers involved in port operations, including those based at freight stations and transferred 50 others who have been manning the Mombasa-based CFSs.
“We have formed an inter-agency committee comprising officials from KRA, KPA, the police intelligence and Kenya Maritime Authority that is collecting information for use in fresh vetting of CFSs,” he said.
“Key customs staff, including those based at the head office, will be vetted in the next three months and their retention will depend on the outcome of the vetting process,” Mr Njiraini revealed.
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Mr Ndua had last week written to the board expressing his intention to leave the organisation when his term expired in July. His tenure at KPA, which lasted close to eight years, saw the amount of cargo handled and revenue collected rise significantly.
The number of containers handled at the Mombasa port hit one million in 2014 – raising revenues to Sh30.7 billion.
But the port has also suffered adverse publicity arising from rampant smuggling of goods such as sugar, ethanol and ivory worth billions of shillings.
Aside from allegations of corruption, implementation of the tender for construction of the Sh28 billion second container terminal also put the port management under the spotlight.
KPA in February last year opened bids for a Japanese funded three-phase 1.2 million Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) terminal, which prequalified 12 firms, including eight that are listed among the world’s top 10 terminal operators.
Three losers appealed to the procurement tribunal, claiming there was discrimination in scoring of marks. KPA has since been ordered to re-evaluate the technical bids, a process that is ongoing.
Mr Macharia said that concessioning of the terminal had been delayed by bidders who are engaged in intense litigation.
“Construction of the second container terminal is almost over and the contractor is expected to officially hand it over on February 27,” he said.
The minister said that delay in completing the terminal was denying Kenyans an opportunity to maximise on the port output and was contributing to revenue losses.
“We have directed the management to commence the termination of the procurement process following the laid down legal procedures, but we are not terminating any contracts,” he said.
Mr Macharia announced that all transit cargo and sugar imports would be cleared from Kilindini and not at the CFSs as before as part of measures meant to curb loss of cargo in transit.
The taxman has been investigating contraband goods at two CFSs, leading to the closure of Autoports Freight Terminals Limited and Portside Freight Terminals that are associated with Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.
Mr Njiraini said that while KRA officials have been opening containers in the presence of their owners, the exercise would continue for the containers whose owners have failed to turn up but have come from high risk areas.
“We have been investigating issues of cargo diversion and losses. We have concluded one of the cases and we will be taking the several individuals, including a number of our staff, to court in the next one week,” he said.
Inspector- General of Police Joseph Boinnet said three officers manning the port police station had been deployed as part of the reorganisation to curb corruption.
“We have redeployed as at Monday the county criminal investigations officer Henry Ondieki and transferred the Port OCPD Zacchaeus Ng’eno, the Port OCS and his deputy to eliminate corruption,” he said.