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RVR boss shown the door

NAIROBI, August 4 – The management of the troubled Rift Valley Railways (RVR) has sacked its Managing Director Roy Puffet and replaced him with an Australian, Kevin Whiteway.

While making the announcement, the RVR Steering Committee Chairman Ngugi Kiuna said the board of directors had also created a post of Executive Chairman that will be held by Brown Ondego.

He said the move was aimed at bolstering RVR’s management structure.

Ondego is a former MD of the Kenya Ports Authority.

“As a respected Supply Planning Management and Operations expert, he will be expected to fulfil the duties of the principal director of the company,” Kiuna said.

The Chairman, who is also a board member of the Kenya Uganda Railways concessionaire, said the new Executive Chairman would among other things be the firm’s principal spokesperson and assist in policy formulation initiatives.

During a media briefing, Kiuna denied reports that the changes were made under duress.

“We have been under no pressure to change the management. The board is running RVR to the best of its judgement,” he explained.

On his part, Puffet said a major reshuffling had taken place in his South African Company that called for his involvement.

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“I just had a major investor purchase 50 percent of my company and I have other business interests around Africa that need my attention,” Puffet told journalists at a media briefing to unveil the new management on Monday afternoon.

“It was never my intention to spend more than three or five years here (as RVR MD), and I think its time now to make way for someone new,” he added.

Reacting to reports in one of the local dailies that the consortium had been given a three-month ultimatum to come up with $40 million, Kiuna denied that neither the Kenyan nor Ugandan governments had issued any such demands.

“We understand the need from our clients and the public for the business to do better, but not one is holding a gun to our head,” Kiuna said.

The concession has in the last few months been accused of having performed below expectation.

The sacking comes a month after the RVR management; the private manager of the Kenya-Uganda railway announced a new round of retrenchments.

More than 500 employees have been earmarked to lose their jobs as the company down-sized its staff to the required 2,500.

Since taking over in November, 2006, the consortium has retrenched 400 workers.

Asked about rumours that some shareholders had decided to cede their stake in the troubled consortium, Kiuna reiterated that all shareholders were firmly behind the project and some had already demonstrated a need to increase their investments.

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“There is a commitment by the shareholders to put more money into the project,” he emphasised adding that they had already injected over $30 million.

He added that the board was looking at ways of raising additional equity, such as a Rights Issue or issuance of new shares.

“We have not necessarily come to a conclusion about the methodology that we will use, but we are looking at ways to accommodate all those people who want to inject more capital in our business,” he added.

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