Will the suspended Ezra Chiloba be second time lucky?


Ezra Chiloba was recently suspended as the boss of the Communications Authority of Kenya. ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH BARASA | NMG

Should the suspended Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) director-general Ezra Chiloba make his way back to the corner office at CA Centre in Nairobi, then he will have inched closer to being the proverbial cat with nine lives.

The latest action pushes the number of suspensions against the former CEO of the Independent and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to two, revealing something about his management record or just a case of finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The two agencies — IEBC and CA — are critical to the governance of the country, which explains the high-octane politics in their management.

But there is also a lot of money involved, with the CA receiving close to Sh3 billion every financial year in fees from players in the communications space.

Mr Chiloba made his way back to his former job as the CEO of the electoral body. Kenyans will be waiting to see whether Mr Chiloba will fight his way back to office as happened at IEBC.

On September 18, CA board chairperson Mary Mungai suspended Mr Chiloba over abuse of office and misuse of funds in the authority’s Sh662.4 million mortgage scheme.

He is accused of not only approving his own mortgage loan but also paying some Sh25 million to a company he is the sole director, which means he was both the buyer and seller, pointing to a conflict of interest.

The suspended director-general is also accused of clearing staff who exited the CA despite the team having unpaid loans totalling Sh28.9 million and understating loan balances for former employees, according to the findings of an audit report on the management of the staff mortgage scheme.

The probe found that the CA remitted Sh25 million to an account held at the Equity Bank in the name of Kitale Limited that a companies registry search revealed belongs to Mr Chiloba as the only director.

“These actions amount to an offence in accordance with Section 41 and 42 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act,” reads part of the report.

Among the many options that Mr Chiloba has, besides fighting back his suspension in a court of law, is to retire to his Hilmost farm in Trans-Nzoia County, where the trained lawyer farms maize, bananas, passion fruits and coffee.

“Don’t think Chiloba is idle. I’m busy in the village. I have much peace here. I am so tired of the noises out there. My target is to transform this piece of land into something more productive,” he said in an earlier interview.

But with some time left until the end of his contract, he might be tempted to fight his suspension as his predecessor successfully did.

In September 2021 Chiloba replaced Francis Wangusi as the director-general of CA, coming back to the government after three years in the cold.

Before him, Mr Wangusi’s three-month suspension was so acrimonious that the late DG was prevented from accessing his office for two weeks before the court lifted the suspension, ending the ugly standoff.

Mr Chiloba was suspended on June 14, 2018, to pave the way for an in-depth procurement audit by both internal and external auditors at the IEBC.

Then IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati explained that the CEO was suspended to allow for a comprehensive audit as his presence could interfere with the internal audit.

Mr Chebukati explained that a panel resolved to suspend Mr Chiloba for three months, pending the completion of the audit of all major procurements relating to the general elections of August 8, 2017 and the repeat presidential election held on October 26, 2017.

According to the commission, a preliminary/draft audit report from the internal auditors had raised serious issues on the possible misappropriation, wastage and/or pilferage of public funds, including possible gross breaches of the PFM Act in respect of the general election and the repeat polls.

He found his way back to the IEBC after the Employment and Labour Relations court ruled that sending him on compulsory leave did not have contractual authority.

Mr Chiloba holds an undergraduate degree in Law from the University of Nairobi, a Master of Arts degree from Central European University in Hungary and a Master of Science degree in programme management from the University of Oxford.

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