Row at Kenya water firm persists

May 31, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 31 – There was a standoff at the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) on Monday morning after councillors attempted to install a new Managing Director.

The civic leaders however met resistance from the company\’s employees who said that they had full confidence in the acting MD Philip Gichuki.

“When Engineer Philip Gichuki was brought in to lead us, that was when City Council woke up and they want to install somebody else,” complained one of the employees.

Last week, councillors forcefully ejected Mr Gichuki from a meeting that was taking place in Mombasa.

Councillors were opposed to what they term as interference from the Athi Water Service Board (AWSB). The civic leaders argued they had a court order to install Stephen Mburu as the Managing Director.

But on Monday, Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa and other councillors were prevented from accessing the offices in industrial area as the row persisted.

Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia together with five representatives from the water company were later allowed access into the premises by the staff.

A week ago, the protagonists had pushed their war to a crescendo through an exchange of notices in local newspapers reasserting their rights to appoint members of the NCWSC board.

City Hall later replied to a recent notice by AWSB that gave the local authority two seats on the board and reasserted its right to control the water firm.

That decision had angered the board – the water sector regulator in Nairobi and its environs – into warning that it will withdraw NCWSC’s license should City Hall go ahead with its plans to nominate all board members.

When the Water Act came into force eight years ago, local authorities were forced to form fully owned corporate entities to supply their residents with water.

Assets and staff that run the departments were transferred to the newly formed entities in exchange for a 10 percent lease and an undertaking to take over the payroll of the affected workforce.

Under the Water Act, the city council controls two slots in the water firm’s boardroom, leaving the remaining nine to diverse interest groups from the private sector .

City Hall is fighting to retain the provisions of the Company Act, which gives it powers as the sole shareholder of the water company to nominate the entire board.

But AWSB has stepped up campaigns to dilute the dominance of City Hall, saying more stakeholders in the board will improve transparency and accountability that is critical in the water sector.

Through the letters exchanged with City Hall early this month, AWSB has requested for the amendment of NCWSC’s Memorandum and Articles of Association to reduce influence that the local authority currently enjoys in the appointment of directors.

The position seeks to reduce the City Hall nominees in the NCWSC’s boardroom to only two people, leaving the remaining nine to other stakeholders that include the business community, civil society and women representatives.

The oversight board also seeks to retire two-thirds of current members of the water firm’s board, an undertaking that will be repeated after every three years.


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