By Johnson Chengo
The cabinet secretary for Roads and infrastructure Kipchumba Murkomen has assured that there will be no more political interference in the running of the Kenya Ports Authority.
His sentiments come as the authority is in the process of picking a new managing director after the recruitment process ended on January 13.
“We expect the new MD to be in office by April 1. I have trust in the new board to recruit a new competent MD who will be in sync with the vision of the government,” said Murkomen.
Murkomen said that the authority has over the years been under political influence in the past regime which he said have affected the performance of the port.
He was speaking in Mombasa after officiating the first board meeting chaired by the new KPA board chair, former Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari.
Tayari was appointed to the position through a gazette notice dated January 13, taking over from Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana whose appointment was revoked.
“I want to assure you that as the CS in charge of this docket, I will not give you illegal orders or ask you to do anything against the law, whether it touches on procurement or management,” said Murkomen.
Murkomen assured that the issue of politics and impunity will no longer interfere with the port affairs under his tenure as the cabinet secretary.
He reiterated that no board member is a political appointee of anyone in the political arena saying that they were all appointed by merit and are collectively appointees of the cabinet secretary, the ministry and the government of the republic of Kenya.
The CS further urged the board to be creative saying that they were coming at a critical time when the port is facing a myriad of challenges. Top on the list he said is competition from neighbors.
Somali is expected to open the new deep-water port in the city of Gara’ad this month. At the same time the port Djobouti in Djibouti has also been expanding operations over the years with Tanzania also expected to open a new port in Zanzibar soon.
The Mombasa port has for a long time been the automatic port of choice in the region.
“In a positive way we need to put in necessary investment in this port to be miles ahead of competition. We must improve on our efficiency to make sure that Mombasa port remains the port of choice,” Murkomen said.
He further urged the board to undertake a review of the KPA Act of 1979 with a view of strengthening the management of the port. The last review to the act was done in 2012 but was never completed.
The Cs also dealt a blow to a demand by Mombasa county after rejecting a plan by Mombasa county to share Port revenue saying it was against the law if his ministry allows that to happen. Mombasa governor had demanded that a share of the revenue from the port be directed to the county for development.
“It will be illegal to have revenue share with Mombasa county, we don’t want to introduce an illegal tax, but if there is a service that Mombasa county has done to KPA then KPA can pay for that service but not introduce another tax,” said Murkomen.
Last week the Mombasa County government’s plan to tax cargo at the Mombasa Port was rejected after the Attorney-General Justin Muturi termed it illegal and unconstitutional.
In an advisory dated January 23 and addressed to Governor Abdulswamad Nassir and copied to Roads and Transport Ministry officials, Mr Muturi said Mombasa County has no mandate to impose a levy on any goods imported into the country.
Also present was the new Transport PS Mohamed Dhagar who assured the new board of the ministry’s full support as they deliver on their mandate in the next three years.
The KPA board chair Benjamin Tayari assured the CS that they are ready for the task ahead, promising that the board will work as a team.
“Count on us that we will deliver on the government’s vision. I promise you that we shall work as a team, we shall consult before reaching any decision and we shall ensure that whatever comes from this room is good for the nation,” said Tayari.
KPA acting managing director ambassador John Mwangemi assured the board that the management will work closely with the new board.
Mwangemi reiterated that KPA is not afraid of competition saying that this will only encourage the authority to work even better.
“The game will be won through efficiency, that is what we are working on,” said Mwangemi.