Economy

Moi-era CEO back in Kenya Seed board

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett has appointed a former Kenya Seed Company chief executive to the State firm’s board, raising the prospect of reviving an ownership war that has dogged it for nearly 15 years.

Mr Bett, who is also a former Kenya Seed managing director, announced in a Kenya Gazette notice last Friday that he had appointed Nathaniel Tum to the company’s board for a three-year term that began on February 7.

Mr Tum was controversially removed as CEO of Kenya Seed in 2003 following revelations that he had irregularly transferred ownership of the firm to the family of former President Daniel arap Moi. Mr Tum has over the past 14 years been fighting for control of Kenya Seed in a war that is centred on a 2001 share sale deal that effectively transferred the parastatal to private hands with minority State ownership.

Mr Tum, whose troubles began immediately Mr Moi left office in December 2002, now seems to have struck a rapport with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration as its term in office draws to a close.

Mr Tum was a key member of the Moi-era elite that controlled the levers of power but lost out immediately the Narc administration under Mwai Kibaki took over.

The battle for control of Kenya Seed has been in and out of court for 14 years -- the latest round having been Mr Tum’s 2014 attempt to oust government-appointed directors through a shareholders’ meeting. Kenya Seed’s troubles started in 2001 after the management under Tum issued new shares and sold to the Moi- era elite in a transaction that diluted government stake from 52.8 per cent to 40 per cent.

Richard Leakey, who was at that time the head of the Public Service, wrote to Mr Tum, expressing reservations over the transaction.

The Agricultural Development Corporation, the agency that holds the government stake, also opposed the transaction but the Kenya Seed management ignored the objections and proceeded with the sale.

In 2003, senior managers led by Mr Tum lost a bid to reverse their dismissal when the government reclaimed the company.