Even growth of 100-200% in four years isn’t enough?

Kevin Motaroki As a way of dealing with the hangover that comes with getting beaten in an election, losers invariably take to engaging in a tsunami of apologetic tirades to justify their loss, seek sympathy and demonstrate to the electorate that it made a mistake in voting the other guys in. The leaders of the defeated parties must convince their supporters that it is still desirable to stay, that “next time” isn’t too far away. To the winners, on the other hand, post mortems are unnecessary; they, after all, just won. They are convinced of the superiority of their campaigns, the infallibility of their strategies, the triviality of the lies they told the populace, and their entitlement to the “good life”. The problems with this first-past-the-post system kind of democracy, where the winner takes all, are well documented. Almost always, it means having to pay back – with interest – expectant sponsors. In this mix, without exception, are cabinet positions, doled out to cronies and election funders, who must then find a way to recoup their investments. A good number of cabinet secretaries in the current Cabinet fall under this classification, although, because of primitive tribal and political considerations, we choose to look at them as “qualified” technocrats. National Oil Corporation of Kenya (Nock) chief executive Ms Summaya Hassan-Athmani was in mid January ordered to go on compulsory leave to give room for what was termed as an “enterprise audit”, to explain a Sh270 million loss in the first half of the current financial year. Ordinarily, this would be explained as due diligence on the part of the State. What made it highly suspect, however, is that KPMG had recently concluded an audit into the operations of Nock for the period under review. Why another one was required so soon is baffling. To put matters into perspective, let us consider Ms Summaya’s achievements so far. She has overseen: growth in total assets from Sh5.8 billion in 2010/11 to Sh12 billion in 2014/15; an expansion in fixed assets from Sh2.2 billion to Sh 6.5 billion during the same period; increase in turnover from Sh15 billion to Sh24 billion, with a forecast of Sh36.2 billion for 2015/16; growth in gross profit from Sh822 million to Sh1.5 billion, with a forecast of Sh1.8 billion for the current financial year; increase in operating profit from Sh180 million to Sh504 million, with forecast of Sh538 million for 2015/16; and growth in volumes from Sh187 million litres per annum in 2010/11 to 240 million litres in the last financial year. This is projected to peak at 354 million litres this year. On all of these fronts, growth has been between 100 and 200%. What about her crimes? She happens to be one of two women in a board of 14 whose composition is a true reflection of the awful tyranny of numbers that is the Jubilee Government’s mantra: Daniel Wamahiu – chairman, Ms Sumayya – CEO, Andrew Kamau – PS National Treasury, Stanley Kamau – alternate to PS National Treasury and Timothy Mulaha – alternate to PS Energy & Petroleum. Other board members include Ms Margaret Saitoti, Joseph Rotumoi, Kibuga Kariithi, Bernard Kitur Rono, Mr Samuel Gakunga, Tom Maina Macharia, Christine Mutinda and Peter Ngala Ekuleu. Charles Keter, who replaced Davis Chirchir, heads the Energy docket. Her ouster is a poorly disguised bid to kick out a non-compliant board executive. Ms Summaya’s biggest blunder, however, is that she refuses to be compromised, or drawn into the schemes devised by those who sit in her board. They are not happy, and their godfathers are definitely not happy. Is this all there is to it, you ask. The economic, political and class opportunities at National Oil are difficult to miss. One, in September last year, Nock announced it intended to construct a $500 million (Sh50 billion) offshore oil jetty, including large scale petroleum storage tanks, to stabilise fluctuating oil prices. After that announcement, Nock board members began to jostle for the contract, sparking off nasty boardroom wrangles, pitting the Kikuyu majority against the Kalenjin. The warring camps wanted pre-qualified contractors (of course, affiliated to them) awarded the job, while Ms Summaya wanted the process done through open tendering, owing to the amount of money involved, and the possibility that individual and tribal interests would override national ones. Board members saw a common stumbling block in Ms Summaya, and painted a large bull’s eye on her back. Two, government, through Nock, has a 25%–30% stake in petroleum upstream activities – exploration and production – and a 10% stake in downstream activities (supply and distribution). The upstream segment has grown considerably in the past five years, following discoveries of viable stocks of crude and gas deposits. The brazen “occupation” of the energy sector by the two tribes is to facilitate the hiving off of the upstream segment from public holding to give it to a private player, ostensibly to “bring efficiency to the sector”. What it is meant to do, in reality, is to concentrate and monopolise one of the most crucial sectors in the hands of individuals. The idea of a cartel economy becomes very real. Ms Summaya refused to play ball, and this was her second mistake. Third, the country is still in the planning stages of a strategic oil reserve, for which Nock needs to raise Sh115 billion to establish. Since the idea was mooted in 2008, it has failed to take off because of vested interests from the board members, who want the contract sublet to certain individuals and firms, as opposed to a public private partnership. Ms Summaya is being pushed out because she just won’t play ball, and therefore threatens the economic interests of players in the sector. To put it crudely, a woman, from some nondescript Swahili tribe, should have no part in deciding the trajectory the gas and petroleum industry takes. There is a saying that one cannot fight government and win. The people who want Ms Summaya out could have their way because they have the backing of government; they are government. She is being removed for refusing to be part of the cartel. But it is just despicable that she has to have her name dragged in mud because some individuals want to prove a point.

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