New Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Petroleum Charles Keter has made a strong impression at the Energy ministry.
Charles Keter took office on 22 December and within five weeks had suspended National Oil Company of Kenya (NOCK) boss Sumayya Athmani.
Athmani had served since 2010, but has been under pressure in recent years. In 2012, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) recommended she be prosecuted for questionable single source diesel procurement.
More recently the Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) has questioned the award of a seismic survey contract to WesternGeco. The award was made last year following an open tender. COFEK however questions NOCK’s right to do so, arguing such work should be mandated by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.
Athmani’s suspension should have limited impact on investor activity in the sector. The Ministry leads on all significant issues including licensing, monitoring of exploration plans, relinquishment of acreage, etc. NOCK itself is a licence holder for Block 14T. Ideally, the suspension will help clarify the respective roles of NOCK and the ministry.
In light of Athmani’s removal, MaryJane Mwangi has been appointed as acting Managing Director.
Charles Keter has also dismissed the acting head of the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), Flora Okoth.
KPC has had a troubled recent history. The company’s Managing Director Charles Tanui was suspended in July 2015 over allegations of corruption in procurement.
Acting chief Flora Okoth was under pressure following delays in addressing a pipeline leak in Makueni County, south east of Nairobi, and was finally dismissed on 7 January.
The incident saw petrol leak into the Thange River. KPC did not commit to cleaning up the leak until September 2015.
Charles Keter himself has not avoided controversy. He has been accused of abuse of office for supposedly campaigning for the Kericho Jubilee senatorial contestant Aaron Cheruiyot as his replacement as Kericho County senator.
Under Kenya’s 2010 constitution, cabinet secretaries are envisaged as technocrats, not party activists so Keter’s apparent campaigning in the Kericho County Senate by-election has attracted attention.
Governor Isaac Ruto of neighbouring Bomet County called for Keter’s impeachment for doing so, though there are no constitutional grounds for Ruto’s action.
Governor Ruto’s intervention signals clearly that Charles Keter is, as is widely understood, Deputy President William Ruto’s man, in the same way that his predecessor Davis Chirchir was.
Even prior to his appointment, Charles Keter was bracketed with Chirchir and Daniel Kiptoo as the key political triumvirate in Energy, according to a civil society source.
Kiptoo remains in position as legal adviser to the cabinet secretary, he was a personal appointment originally made by Davis Chirchir.