Intrigues, jitters at CA as new board takes office

Communications Authority of Kenya chairperson Mary Wambui Mungai.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Inside the government agency that regulates all communication, postal and information transmission entities in the country, staffing decisions made over the past few years are causing tensions.

From controversial promotions done days to the 2022 General Election that saw some staff promoted to lead their hitherto bosses to an internal advertisement of 20 jobs that was issued on February 2 then withdrawn five days later, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is akin to a career war zone.

Now with a new board in place, complete with new chairperson Mary Wambui Mungai (it will be holding its first sitting tomorrow), staff are collectively holding their breath as they wait to see how the pendulum swings.

A number of the staffing issues are contained in a 111-page report by the Public Service Commission dated February 13, 2023 and which has been filed at the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi.

It is titled ‘Report of the Review and Audit of Human Resource Policies and Practices and Investigation of the Organisation, Administration and Personnel Practices at the Communications Authority of Kenya’.  The audit was done as a result of a court order by Lady Justice Monica Mbaru in a judgment she gave on January 25, 2022.

The judge’s order was a result of a petition filed by Mr Anthony Manyara Muchui, a member of the public, questioning the advertisement of some vacancies in the print media on October 1, 2021. This was barely three days after the appointment of Mr Ezra Chiloba as the CA director-general.

Among other issues, Mr Manyara questioned why the CA was using staffing parameters set by the State Corporations Advisory Committee (SCAC) whereas the ones set by the Public Service Commission are supposed to guide all state agencies.

SCAC’s requirements, among other new measures, wanted applicants for assistant manager positions and above to have a Master’s degree. The applicants also needed to have taken a management course lasting two to four weeks at a recognised institution.

Mr Manyara wanted the court to make a determination on who should regulate the human resources of state corporations.

Mr Chiloba, in defence of the commission at the court, argued that SCAC’s human resource instruments had been adopted by CA in early 2021 after due process had been followed.

“Mr Chiloba avers that CA staff were involved in the review of the HR instruments and the petitioner cannot purport that they were not afforded an opportunity to make representations,” said the judge’s summary of the proceedings.

A source has intimated that the SCAC staffing rules were part of a master plan by a government official to have “cooperative” people in certain departments that would protect the interests of some companies. Part of that was told to the court.

In the report, various aspects of CA were analysed, among them the organisation structure, the people placed in acting roles, the issuance of acting allowances, the handling of disciplinary cases, and the way vacancies are advertised.

On the advertising of vacancies, PSC noted that CA often ignored mentioning the terms and the remuneration. It recommended that CA complies with PSC rules on how job adverts should be done.

On acting allowances, PSC recommended that CA stops paying allowances to “staff that do not meet the documented standards in the PSC Act” and advertise the vacant posts for competitive filling. On organisational structure, PSC found that the CA does not provide for staff involvement when changing the way the authority’s hierarchy is structured. It also found that there were issues in staff grading.

On diversity, PSC found out that two communities – Kalenjin and Luhya – were grossly over-represented in the list of 236 staff.  “It was observed that 60 percent of the ethnic communities are not represented, thereby making the institution not to be compliant in terms of diverse representation,” it said.

On March 20, the matter will be mentioned before Justice Mbaru for directions on what becomes of the report.

But even as the PSC audit was going on, a number of moves were happening within CA last year. One of them was the promotion of staff. On August 5, 2022, Mr Chiloba issued a circular on promotions of various people to be deputy directors, principal officers and senior officers. One source described the promotions, which were preceded by an internal advertisement, as “a total sham”.

There are claims that personal interests reigned supreme in the selections; that there was no shortlisting of applicants; that some of the applicants had their invitation letters to interviews cancelled days to the interviews; and that some junior staff were given ‘turbo-charged’ promotions.

“A number of staff were promoted to serve several grades above the position they were occupying prior to the interviews,” said an informant.