President Uhuru Kenyatta has hired new directors of the troubled National Irrigation Board (NIB), taking away the role from the Cabinet Secretary (CS) whom the court had stopped from making the appointments.
Mr Kenyatta through a Wednesday Kenya Gazette notice appointed eight directors including the chair of the cash-rich agency whose board was locked in a fight with Water CS Eugene Wamalwa over jobs, leading to its dissolution.
Sources familiar with the appointments reckon that the President opted to step in to shield the CS from prosecution given the High Court had on May 16 suspended the sacking of the NIB team.
The Constitution cushions the President from being charged on civil or criminal cases locally, but the appointments can be challenged in court if in breach of earlier judicial rulings.
Mr Wamalwa disbanded the 13-member board on May 13 for defying his call to reinstate suspended NIB executives.
Mr Kenyatta invoked the State Corporation Act, which gives him powers to appoint or fire board members.
“In exercise of the power conferred by Section 7(3) of the State Corporation Act, I appoint … to be the board members of the National Irrigation Board,” reads the gazette notice.
Previous appointments of NIB directors have been done by ministers save for that of the chair, who is a presidential appointee.
Mr Kenyatta revoked the appointment of NIB chairman Sammy Latema, whose term was to end in December, and replaced him with Malachy Ekai.
The new directors are Hussein Fayo, Bernard Kimani, Kipkeliet Nicholas, Caroline Gatwiri, Beatrice Mbingi, Lalakipani Kambaki and Edwin Irungu. Their two-year term will end in April 2018.
The appointment comes just days before the launch of NIB’s flagship project the one million-acre Galana-Kulalu irrigation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is expected to inaugurate the scheme on July 5.
The Treasury has allocated NIB Sh8.6 billion for mega irrigation projects for the year starting July including Galana (Sh3.2 billion), Mwea (Sh3.2 billion) and Sh2.2 billion for other projects.
Justice George Odunga last month issued temporary orders stopping the disbandment of the NIB board after an activist, Felix Kiprono, termed the action illegal.
The activist faulted Mr Wamalwa’s move of directing the board members to unconditionally reinstate the suspended executives and thereafter threatening them with the sack.
NIB general manager Daniel Barasa together with Mary Chomba (deputy general manager Finance and Strategy) and Boaz Akello (Procurement and Supplies) were suspended on April 21 for alleged misconduct and financial mismanagement.