Heads to roll at KPA as Ruto plans major port changes

Ruto in Mombasa

President William Ruto on November 19 during the commissioning of the Mtwapa (Kwa Kadzengo) road in Kilifi County, which is part of the road that will link Malindi to Bagamoyo in Tanzania.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto made his first visit to the Port of Mombasa since he was elected over the weekend to familiarise himself with its operations amid plans to restructure its management and improve efficiency.

With the changes and ongoing audit of various projects at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) , Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen hinted there will be some key changes to streamline operations and reduce bureaucracy.

In an earlier interview, Mr Murkomen wondered why KPA has seven general managers and according to sources, heads are expected to roll in the next few weeks. Yesterday, the CS confirmed there are plans to improve efficiency at the state corporation.

“I visited the Port of Mombasa and held a meeting with the board and the management team of the KPA led by General (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana and acting Managing Director John Mwangemi. I thanked the team for the good work they have done so far,” said Mr Murkomen.

He added: “I was apprised of the progress Kenya has made in streamlining and modernising port operations and the existential challenges that need government intervention.”

On Friday, President Ruto visited the port together with some local leaders, including Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi and Cabinet secretaries Aisha Jumwa and Salim Mvurya and held talks with the KPA management.

The new government is also keen to learn how various tenders and projects were awarded under the previous regime.

Two weeks ago, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua there will be changes at KPA in the coming weeks after the completion of audits being carried out on the port’s operations.

He revealed that President Ruto had ordered Mr Murkomen to conduct the audit following reports last year that the government had offered the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Port World a tender for the development, operation and management of the country’s four ports.

President Ruto’s government is also expected to address the long-standing issue of getting a substantive managing director after the exit of Mr Daniel Manduku about three years ago.

KPA is one of the most highly patronised state corporations by both politicians and traders seeking to benefit from the huge projects the parastatal undertakes. It also highly profitable, raking in Sh15.4 billion profit after tax in the last fiscal year.

The port changes also come amid ambitious plans by President Ruto to revive the coast region’s economy through trade, value addition and manufacturing.

The Kenya Kwanza administration has said it will invest billions of shillings to create opportunities for 100,000 youth in value addition and agro-processing sectors at the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

The construction of the first phase of the SEZ, is set to start soon after the government called for bids.

KPA has advertised a Sh39 billion tender for the construction of key facilities on a 3,000-acre piece of land.

“Mombasa had become a ghost town but is now back [after port operations that had been transferred to Nairobi and Naivasha were returned], with clearing and forwarding firms reopening. Mombasa is regaining its lost glory. However, that is not enough. When we planned the SGR project, we intended it to link up with a special economic zone at Dongo Kundu to build opportunities for our youths,” said President Ruto.

On Saturday, the President met the investors in the Dongo Kundu SEZ.

“I had a big meeting with the investors of the project and the concerned ministry officials to deliberate on the Dongo Kundu SEZ, which must be operational within two years. We will eradicate poverty through investing in the business and rebuilding the economy, developing infrastructure, and boosting connectivity,” said the President.

The tender advertisement comes barely five months after Mr Mwangemi and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) officials led by Naota Mukai signed an agreement to mark the beginning of the project.

According to the tender, the contractor is expected to dredge a special berth, clear the site, build facilities and set up a security system and an information and communication technology hub.

The dredging of the berth will include its widening and reclaiming of the land for the construction of the project, among other activities. Last September, the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the affected individuals was completed.

KPA developed the compensation framework with the support of Jica following the recommendation of the National Land Commission. A compensation policy was developed, submitted, and approved by the Cabinet.

Some 1,648 claimants will be resettled after 357 acres were earmarked for internal resettlement. Those to be compensated are from Dongo Kundu, Mwangala, Mrongondoni, Kaya Mtongwe, Mbuta, and Siji villages

“The RAP also has a compensation component for potential displacement impact on structures including residential, commercial, non-residential, agricultural, religious, institutional, educational, storage, cultural and security buildings as well as water-related structures among others totalling 2,585 structures,” KPA stated in its report.

“The construction of new road infrastructure and special economic zone under the Mombasa Port Development Project and the Standard Gauge Railway will be linked to the expanded port of Mombasa. Landlocked countries within East and Central Africa will be efficiently served by the port,” said Mr Mwangemi.

According to the finance proposal, the whole project will be under a Jica loan scheme structured as a Sh6 billion grant and Sh50 billion concessional loan payable within 30 years.