Treasury triggers Kenya Power chair ouster ahead of AGM

Kenya Power board chair Vivienne Yeda. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Power chairperson Vivienne Yeda is set to quit the utility after the Treasury opted not to support her re-election at the firm’s AGM set for December 16.

Ms Yeda, who was tapped in November 2020 to shepherd the turnaround of Kenya Power, informed investors she will be quitting on the day of the shareholder meeting.

Sources at the power utility reckon that the new government was uncomfortable with her stay at Kenya Power and links with top officials at State House under the Uhuru administration.

Her exit will add to the instability on Kenya Power’s board and executive suite that has seen directors quit in quick succession.

“We received a November 18 letter from the Treasury indicating the government’s desire for the removal of Vivienne as director of Kenya Power,” said a Kenya Power top executive who sought anonymity. “Vivienne did not want to fight and opted to retire.”

The Business Daily saw excerpts of the letter from the Treasury, which holds 51.01 per cent of Kenya Power voting rights, seeking a special notice on the agenda of the AGM calling for the removal of Ms Yeda.

Traditionally, a change in administration often triggers shake-ups in parastatals as the President and ministers move to assert their influence over government-managed firms that have previously been used as centres of patronage by previous regimes.

William Ruto was sworn in as Kenya’s fifth President on September 13.

Ms Yeda’s term was expected to expire in November 2023.

“Ms Vivienne Yeda has given notice of retirement as a director with effect from the date of the annual general meeting,” Kenya Power said in a public statement yesterday.

Ms Yeda also serves as CEO of the East Africa Development Bank.

She joined Kenya Power in 2020 on a freshly minted board that had a brief of restructuring the company and lifting the utility firm from losses.

In May, three directors-- Elizabeth Rogo, Abdulrazaq Ali and Caroline Kittony-Waiyaki-- appointed together with Ms Yeda resigned under unclear circumstances, leaving the utility short of independent board members.

The board exits came days after Kenya Power appointed a new acting managing director, Geoffrey Waswa Muli, replacing Rosemary Oduor, who had been acting in the same capacity since August 2021.

The firm said mid this month Mr Muli would take over from Ms Oduor immediately as she proceeded on annual leave.

Ms Oduor took over from Bernard Ngugi, who also resigned last August.

Mr Ngugi was the fourth CEO in four years to exit the firm amid a boardroom fallout that came months after the court dismissed a petition to remove him over past procurement dealings.

He had come under pressure from the board and shareholders over turnaround plans in the wake of a streak of losses at the utility. He quit barely two years after he was appointed for a three-year term.

Last year, Kenya Electrical Trades and Allied Workers Union (Ketawu) threatened to go on strike to push for the resignation of Ms Yeda and the three directors.

The strike threat came at a time the anti-corruption watchdog had summoned non-executive board members of Kenya Power to record statements over procurement fights that had rocked that utility company weeks after the exit of Mr Ngugi.

A source at the firm said the new board took an active role in management, including querying procurement decisions and dropping management’s strategy to increase tariff rates that officials believed would lift Kenya Power out of the red.

In July 2018, Kenya Power faced a crisis after its chief executive and several senior executives were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit economic crimes and abuse of office. They all denied the charges.

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