Kenya Power has made a shortlist of candidates for the utility firm’s next chief executive after an aborted bid to hire an expatriate.
The board of the power firm identified seven candidates, all of them insiders in the energy sector, for interviews for a job that attracted 29 applicants.
Sources familiar with the matter said three candidates — Joseph Siror (the general manager for systems operations at Ketraco), Rosemary Oduor (general manager for commercial and sales at Kenya Power) and Jeremiah Kiplangat (head of Kenya Power’s training school) — emerged top in the interviews.
The utility has not had a substantive managing director since Bernard Ngugi resigned unexpectedly in August 2021 amid a boardroom fallout that came months after a court dismissed a petition to remove him over past procurement dealings.
The year-long wait for a substantive managing director has underpinned the high rate of attrition in the firm’s executive suite and board amid reforms meant to steady the company in the wake of losses and procurement flaws
The Kenya Power board is seeking to strike a balance between getting a CEO who has the qualities to turn around the utility while ensuring the top jobs in the energy sector parastatals reflect the face of Kenya.
The ethnic composition of appointments under the Ruto administration is also coming under scrutiny in the wake of an earlier report showing Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities dominated top jobs in State-owned firms.
Other candidates interviewed by the Kenya Power board were acting CEO Geoffrey Muli, John Ngeno (general manager in charge of supply chain at Kenya Power), David Kinyua (the director of Strategy and Innovation at KenGen) and Beatrice Meso (a former Kenya Power executive).
Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir is expected to announce the new CEO in the coming days as President William Ruto’s administration aggressively seeks to replace top bosses in State-backed firms and agencies.
Dr Siror holds a PhD in Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University and has for the past six years been attached to State-owned Ketraco —which manages Kenya’s high-voltage power transmission lines.
Dr Kiplangat previously lectured at Kenyatta University’s Engineering School for over a decade before joining the Institute of Energy Studies and Research in 2015. The institute is the training arm of Kenya Power.
Ms Oduor served as acting CEO from August 2021 before surprisingly being replaced by Mr Muli in May last year.
Kenya Power sank into a half-year net loss of Sh1.1 billion in the six months to December compared to a Sh3.82 billion net profit posted in a similar period a year earlier.
On Thursday, Kenya Power chair Joy Masinde declined to comment.
“I cannot confirm or deny the list,” she told the Business Daily.
In December, it emerged that the ousted board had proposed to bring in an expatriate to run the loss-making monopoly.
The choice of an expatriate to run Kenya Power split the board and faced opposition in government, forcing the utility back to the drawing board in the search for a CEO.
Kenya Power under the ousted chair, Vivienne Yeda, had prepared a shortlist of three foreigners and favoured an Australian to lead the utility.
The shortlist followed an executive search led by Deloitte East Africa, which presented the chair of Kenya Power with a list of six recommended candidates on May 6 that included locals and foreigners.
The directors who pushed for an expatriate chief executive cited the turnaround of Kenya Power under a foreign CEO, Canadian Don Priestman, tapped in 2006 when many had written off the power utility firm.
Mr Priestman was hired under a World Bank financing package to help turn around a perennial loss-maker in just two years.
Profitability dramatically increased from Sh874 million in 2004 to Sh2.6 billion last year, a complete turnaround for the power distributor that in 2003 was on the verge of collapse, registering a mind-boggling Sh4.1 billion loss, the highest in its history at the time.
Kenya Power is plagued with instability on its board and executive suite that has seen directors and managers quit in quick succession.
Mr Ngugi was Kenya Power’s fourth CEO in four years, underscoring an instability that could have discouraged top local executives from showing interest in the job.
A source at Deloitte said the requirements for the CEO’s position set by Kenya Power made it necessary to widen the search abroad.
The takeover of the Kenya Power board in December by Dr Ruto’s allies offered the new administration the chance to pick a CEO of their choice. The fresh recruitment kicked off on February 3.
A change in administration traditionally triggers shake-ups in parastatals as the President and ministers move to assert their influence over government-managed entities that have previously been used as centres of patronage.
The new administration, which came to power in September last year, has mostly fired directors appointed in the former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s last days and populated the boards with losers in the August General Election who supported his Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition.
This has set the stage for the replacement of chief executives of top State-owned firms by friendlier boards despite a majority of their contracts running up to next year.