KQ contests Sh144m award to ex-finance chief for dismissal

Former KQ finance director Alex Mbugua. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ has appealed the awarding of a Sh144 million pay off to its former finance director Alex Mbugua whom the airline was found to have unlawfully dismissed in January last year.

KQ, as the airline is known by its international code, was two weeks ago ordered by the High Court to either reinstate Mr Mbugua with all his backdated dues or pay him the equivalent of four years’ salary.

The national carrier, which fired Mr Mbugua on grounds of poor performance, has now applied to the appellate court to freeze the ruling to allow its lawyers proceed and appeal.

“This application will be heard on Wednesday November 29, at 9:30am in the forenoon or so soon thereafter as may be convenient,” the Court of Appeal ordered.

“If any party shall fail to appear, whether in person or by advocate or by some other person authorised by the law to appear on his behalf, the appeal may be heard and determined in his absence.”

Mr Mbugua, 52, was sacked as KQ’s chief finance officer (CFO) on January 19, 2016 after eight years, but proceeded to court seeking reinstatement.

He claimed that he was let go as part of a vindictive scheme by current and former top managers to conceal looting at the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed airline. KQ defended its move, holding that the ex-CFO intentionally skipped an urgent performance review meeting on January 18, which was conceived as insubordination.

Employment and Labour Relations Judge Monica Mbaru on November 7 ruled that Mr Mbugua was not given a fair hearing in the disciplinary proceedings commenced against him before termination.

“The claimant (Mr Mbugua) is hereby reinstated... to his position without loss of benefits and any lawful entitlement to be paid within 30 days,” ordered Justice Mbaru.

“In the alternative, the respondent shall pay the claimant salaries due for three years. Compensation amounting to 12 months’ salary at the last gross salary due on January 19, 2016.”

Mr Mbugua’s last salary was about Sh3 million per month. The national carrier may therefor have to pay him at least Sh144 million to part ways with him.

The alternative is for the cash-strapped KQ, which has just finalised a balance sheet restructuring, to give him back his job beginning today morning, but still pay him for lost earnings during the time of his termination.

The airline, which blocked Mr Mbugua from resuming work on November 8, has now decided to pursue neither of the options but contest Justice Mbaru’s ruling altogether.