There is looming tension at the Kenya National Highways Authority following the shambolic interviews for the position of Director. In an internal advert published on 10th November 2020, the Director-General – Kenya National Highways Authority, Eng Peter Mbuthia Mundinia, called for applications from suitably qualified candidates to fill the position of Director (Road Asset and Corridor Management). Thirteen candidates had submitted their applications by the deadline on Monday 7th December 2020. Upon carrying out preliminary evaluations, only one candidate had not met the requirements set out in the job advert. Therefore, the initial shortlist comprised of Eng Kevin Nyabuto, Eng Samwel Ogege, Eng Cleophas Makau, Eng Kung’u Ndung’u, Eng Charles Obuon, Eng Jared Makori, Eng Mutii Kivoto, Eng Henry Gakuru, Eng Denis Odeck, Eng Christopher Nzioka, Eng Anthony Mutua and Eng Phelix Osongo. Under very mysterious circumstances and using an opaque and discriminatory criterion, the list was further reduced to six candidates namely Eng Odeck, Eng Gakuru, Eng Ndung’u, Eng Makau, Eng Makori and Eng Obuon. It is important to note that experienced candidates including Eng Kivoto, Eng Nyabuto, and Eng Ogege had been dropped, their vast experiences and sterling performances notwithstanding, ostensibly to give a preferred candidate a lifeline. Obnoxiously, Eng Ndung’u and Eng Makau were included in the final shortlist yet they both hold Executive Master of Business Administration certificates whose eligibility was quashed by the Commission for University Education. It was not clear why qualified and experienced candidates had been expunged from the shortlist in favour of the duo. Clearly, the malevolent Board of Directors acted with blatant disregard of the established requirements and qualification criteria.
Interviews for the position were conducted on 10th March 2021 by the Board of Directors that has an overwhelming representation of one ethnic community; six out of ten board members are from the Kikuyu ethnic group. Reliable sources indicate that the interviews were carried out in a hurried and most macabre manner, with a predetermined outcome. The interview results obtained from our source show glaring and astonishing disparities in the marks assigned to the candidates. One wonders whether every evaluator had unique sets of answers to the same questions. Simply put, the interview lacked merit, fairness, transparency, integrity, and credibility. Further insights on the injustice meted out to the candidates by the Kikuyu board members to secure the preferred candidate are highlighted hereunder.
A keen look at the results clearly indicates that the Kikuyu board members applied a predetermined criterion to ensure the preferred candidate, Eng Ndung’u, sailed through by assigning him extraordinarily high marks. Why would uniform interview questions yield extremely variant results per candidate depending on the evaluator? The range of the scores by the candidates is as follows: Eng Odeck, 66 marks – 46 marks = 20 marks; Eng Gakuru, 83 marks – 65 marks = 18 marks ; Eng Obuon, 86 marks – 61 marks = 25 marks ; Eng Makau, 73 marks – 59 marks = 14 marks ; Eng Makori, 89 marks – 64 marks = 25 marks and Eng Ndung’u, 91 marks – 76 marks = 15 marks. These results defy all principles of statistics and fair examination unless the evaluators had unique answers for the same interview questions. Evidently, the interview was a sham only meant to ensure the anointed candidate, Eng Ndung’u, comes out victorious. For all intents and purposes his inclusion in the shortlist was erroneous since he lacks the requisite and relevant post-graduate qualification. Why did the board ignore this obvious requirement and still lock out qualified candidates? It is abundantly clear that the board is conducting its business with nauseating impunity and lawlessness. Are the Directors beyond reproach? Are the Public Service Commission, Head of Public Service and the State Corporations Advisory Committee aware of this uncouth conduct?
The foregoing issue is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems bedevilling the organization. The non-executive Chairman, Eng Wangai has morphed into an Executive Director with a regular appearance at his Barabara Plaza office, where he indulges in the day-to-day operations of the organisation. Our sources indicated that the rudderless Chairman is deficient in leadership, decision making, and analytical skills and is utterly incapable of chairing a board session. His knowledge and experience in corporate governance are also questionable. Word on the street is that Eng Wangai has carved a niche in negotiating for kickbacks from prospective road contractors. As a tradition, contracts at KeNHA are awarded to predetermined contractors or consultants upon payment of the mandatory ‘facilitation fees’ with complete disregard of the procurement regulations. Any contractor or consultant will readily attest to that. One wonders how His Excellency the President will actualise the Big 4 government development agenda with the mediocre leadership at the helm of a vital institution. The incompetent Chairman seems to be enjoying unfettered support from the top technocrats at the Ministry of Transport as he plunders and sinks the organisation.
The current CEO, Eng Mundinia is a well-known member of the Tanga Tanga faction of the ruling Jubilee coalition. He has been making generous contributions in support of faction’s activities in the country. Since he assumed the leadership of the institution, the standards and quality of service have suffered immensely. He is a career civil servant who has amassed astronomical wealth through awarding himself lucrative road construction tenders and also receiving hefty kickbacks from contractors and consultants. It is common knowledge that he will never award any contract without receiving inducements. Under his autocratic and barbaric leadership, employees have suffered untold levels of dehumanisation and discrimination. He so quick to brandish show cause letters at the slightest provocation to intimidate the hapless employees. What became of the code of conduct and ethics for public servants?
Eng Mundinia is a strong proponent and sponsor of the ill-advised bill to extend the terms of office of the Chief Executive Officers in the road sector from three to five years. The bill is currently under review by the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Transport. He hopes to use this avenue to illegally seek an extension to his second term which expires in June 2021. Using his well-known modus operandi, he will splash cash to facilitate approval of the ill-conceived legislation by the not-so-honorable Members of Parliament. One wonders why the inept Chairman is yet to initiate the process of recruiting a new CEO less than 3 months to the expiry of the incumbent’s term of office. Given the unfailing and appalling behaviour and conduct of Eng Wangai and Eng Mundinia the public can only expect more theatrical actions moving forward.
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