Daniel Kiptoo: Epra director-general is under increased pressure after a record rise in fuel prices

daniel kiptoo

For Daniel Kiptoo, the lawyer by training at the helm of the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra), the 14th of every month since last year has been the day of reckoning, at least in the eyes of Kenyans.

Under the Energy Act, the energy regulator is required to announce the monthly prices for petrol, diesel and kerosene.

On Thursday last week, prices shot to levels never seen since Kenya started regulating pump prices, triggering an outpouring of anger from Kenyans stung by inflation.

A litre of diesel jumped by Sh21.32 to Sh200.99 in Nairobi while that of Super rose by Sh13.96 to Sh211.64. Kerosene jumped by the highest margin of Sh33.13 a litre to 202.61, according to the pricing schedule released by the regulator.

“Every 14th day of the month is one where we get unending calls from journalists eager to tell Kenyans how fuel will cost for the next 30 days,” Mr Kiptoo said on Thursday last week.

The statement was followed by a three-minute PowerPoint presentation as Mr Kiptoo, standing right next to his immediate boss, Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir, explained how factors that affect global prices of refined fuel played out last month.

To many in the room, Mr Kiptoo was psychologically preparing Kenyans for what lay ahead: stinging pump prices in the absence of a subsidy.

As the regulator and the man tasked with breaking the bad news to Kenyans at least when pump prices rise, Mr Kiptoo does not portray the image of a man crumbling under public scrutiny.

As he once told this writer, this is part of the job and, sadly, Epra is the public agency that approves tariffs for electricity and pump prices, based on taxes and levies and global prices, in the case of fuel.

Whenever the prices jump, Mr Kiptoo must face the public and take questions even from MPs who summon him to explain the state of affairs.

The late-night announcements especially when pump prices spike have also earned Mr Kiptoo an unpopular view from Kenyans.

In several incidents since 2021, the regulator has been "forced" to announce prices late in the night amid allegations that the move is the agency's way of reducing public outrage.

The law requires Epra to announce fuel prices not later than midnight on the 14th day of every month.

Besides the prices of electricity and fuel, Mr Kiptoo has since April been thrust into the debate of a government-to-government deal to import fuel on credit.

The deal had elicited optimism from Kenyans that it would offer them relief at the pump, hopes that to Mr Kiptoo were not founded given that it was meant to ease dollar demand and prop up the shilling.

“If government-to-government was not there, we probably would have been at 250 units to 270 units against the dollar. We have taken out a third of the demand,” he said last week.

Mr Kiptoo has in the past said that the energy transition where Kenya like the rest of the world is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy offers him an even bigger task, one that he must deliver on by ensuring guidelines that will open up the space and help Kenya go green.

The soft-spoken man, who took over at Epra in 2021, is seemingly not fazed by the public limelight that follows him, given that he dealt with that on the rough rugby pitches as a player.

He was a prop forward for Kenya Harlequin and the national 15-aside team, the Simbas, where he was part of the team that won several accolades, notably the Elgon Cup.

Mr Kiptoo had been the acting Epra boss since December 2020 following the controversial exit of Pavel Oimeke who fell to the graft axe.

He had previously served as the legal adviser in the Ministry of Energy and Department of Petroleum and the chairman of the government’s first oil committee.

Mr Kiptoo’s first term will lapse next year and like other youthful CEOs, he hopes to secure a second term, giving him at least seven years at the helm of the energy regulator.

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