NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – A parliamentary committee on Tuesday cautioned the top management of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) against implementing a directive to relinquish its 99 percent shareholding in Signet to the Treasury.
KBC Board Chairman Engineer Edward Musebe and the CEO Waithaka Waihenya told the National Assembly Committee on Energy, Information and Communication that they received a letter from the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology to relinquish the shares it holds in the company.
The government through the National Treasury CS Henry Rotich currently holds one percent shareholding in the company which is a subsidiary of KBC, which won the digital signal distribution tender alongside Pan African Network Group.
Waihenya said on Monday they were forced to hold an emergency board meeting to deliberate the move. The board however said they were waiting for advice from the Attorney-General who had been copied in the letter alongside Rotich.
“We were told the policy shift was an Executive Order and we were to implement the directive,” Engineer Musebe told the MPs who demanded to see a copy of the alleged order.
But the Information Committee chairman Jamleck Kamau ruled that he couldn’t authenticate the letter because it’s not signed even though it is copied to the AG.
The committee has also summoned ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Rotich to appear before it next week.
The transfer of shares comes just a week after some media owners urged the government to transform Signet into an independent signal distributor without government or commercial interests.
However, the KBC Chief Executive Officer told the House Committee that the public broadcaster loses about Sh90 million just from hosting the platform because of the charges that the CA requires to charge for the frequencies.
Waihenya said KBC invested a lot of money in Signet and the directive has not indicated how it will be compensated.
“If the government takes this platform away from us we will lose our competitive edge. No consideration was given to KBC,” he said.
The KBC management had also informed the committee that the board will in the coming weeks receive a survey carried out by Deloitte that will guide the transformation, re-branding and re-structuring of KBC into a modern news corporation capable of competing with independent media firms.