War over Tenders has ensued at Safaricom limited and nothing to smile about at the leading Telco in East Africa if what is happening behind the scenes is anything to go by.
At the centre of the storm is Safaricom chairman and non-executive director Michael Joseph.
Thanks to the return of Michael Joseph, a South African born Kenyan businessman as acting interim chief executive officer after the death of former CEO Bob Collymore from 2nd July 2 2019 to March 31 2020.
Joseph was later to hand over to Ndegwa as CEO. It is said Joseph never wanted an African to head Safaricom and the Kenya government pushed for a local.
It is on these grounds, together with his foreign allies, they have recruited local top managers to sabotage Ndegwa and if possible force him resign.
The resignation move will allow the cartel to have a foreigner back at the helm of Safaricom.
MJ as Michael Joseph is known among friends and foe is the chairman of the loss making Kenya Airways.
Having been the founding CEO of Safaricom Ltd, his return as interim CEO after Collymore’s death saw him sidelining those allied to the late CEO camp in favour of a cartel MJ had worked with as CEO.
“MJ perfected the art of isolating Collymore blue eyed boys in favour of his own cartel,” a source, an insider within Safaricom, was quoted saying.
What is known is that the relationship between MJ and Ndegwa is at its lowest ebb. The CEO has not been given a free hand to operate as MJ has a squad directly reporting to him and undermining Ndegwa.
The non-executive director is now operating as an executive one assuming the powers of CEO.
Remember, Ndegwa is the executive director and CEO. Others on the board of directors apart from MJ and Ndegwa are Kathryne Maundu (company secretary), Bitange Ndemo, Mohammed Joosub, Linda Muriuki, Rose Ogega, Francesco Bianso, Dilip Kgomaraga, Winnie Ouko and Sitholizwe Molalose.
Ukur Yatani, CS National Treasury and Planning, is also on the board but alternates with Christopher Kirigwa. It is imperative to note, apart from Ndegwa who is executive director, all others are non-executive.
Ndegwa took over from MJ last year. In the same year, Nicholas Ng’ang’a, the man who replaced Ndolo Ayah a former cabinet minister, in 2007 exited as board chairman being replaced by MJ. Ng’ang’a had served the board for 16 years.
CS Yatani nominated MJ to replace Ng’ang’a in a communication last year. What the CS didn’t understand was, once board chairman, the running of Safaricom was to shift from CEO to chairman’s hands unlike during the Ng’ang’a and Collymore regime.
Currently, a number of departments are being overseen by MJ cronies with those in charge openly undermining the CEO. First is the procurement department and then that of corporate affairs headed by Stephen Chege, the shrewd chief co-operate affairs officer.
Chege is one of MJ blue-eyed boys. It is said that Chege and MJ using the current Covid-19 crisis, influenced the purchase of a prime city land next to International School by Safaricom from Moi era tycoon Joshua Kulei running into millions of shillings.
The manner in which the said prime land was procured, purchased, money paid with questionable and suspicious under dealings has left many of the directors and top managers gasping. It has split the board down in the middle. Those in the know claim Kulei grabbed prime city lands during Moi regime and is even facing criminal charges.
Known as “live wire” as he would strike anybody who crossed his line, Kulei’s style of operation even saw his wife desert him to United Kingdom where the family has property.
One of the richest men who rose from a prison warden to late former President Daniel Moi personal assistant, Kulei was a shareholder Standard Group, owners of KTN and Standard newspaper until Baringo Senator Gideon Moi haunded him out.
Surprisingly, the Moi family owns shares in Safaricom and the purchase of the said land from Kulei is generating a lot of heat.
It’s reported that Gideon has no time for Kulei who he accuses of looting his late fathers’ fortunes some even being hidden and operated by proxy companies. We have established, Chege is married to Kulei’s daughter hence his son-in-law. That raises more questions than answers.
In the land purchase, no due diligence was followed as meeting involving the transactions were done virtually due to Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, no questions were asked but the deal fasttracked within a period of weeks. Chege, in charge of legal at Safaricom, was laughing all the way to the bank with his father in law not regretting why his daughter was married to a such shrewd guy who has an appetite for money like Kulei himself.
Chege is said to collude with the procurement department to mint millions of shillings in Safaricom land purchases. Apart from the Kulei land deal, another is the multimillion property Safaricom purchased at Garden City to construct its headquarters with the blessings of foreign owners.
The land was sold to Safaricom by Asian tycoon Harbinder Singh Sethi. Interestingly, Sethi is the owner of the current Safaricom twin building headquarters along Nairobi’s Waiyaki way. He is milking high rent from Safaricom the main tenant.
The construction of Safaricom headquarters to avoid paying rent running into billions of shillings is secretly meeting hurdles instigated by MJ and his cartel. Those on the know claim that the cartel is on the payroll of Asian tycoon Sethi. Sethi’s concern being, if Safaricom vacates his twin towers, he will definitely fail to service bank loans taken to undertake the multibillion project.
Surprisingly, MJ was one of those who pushed for the construction of Safaricom own headquarters as a cost cutting remedy on rented premises across the country in the name of Safaricom outlets and management headquarters.
It the white elephant Safaricom planned headquarters, the procurement and legal departments are culprits. They are sabotaging the construction process in the name of satisfying the needs of the Asian tycoon family. Sethi was arrested in Tanzania for looting the country Central Bank using a ghost energy project.
It’s imperative to note that the recent management changes at the blue chip company were done at the behest of MJ and Ndegwa who is still new and slowly learning operations was caught offguard. “MJ’s idea during his tenure as interim CEO was to dismantle late Collymore orphans, plant his own and use a green horn Ndegwa as a stepping stone,” a source revealed.
The return of the controversial Sylvia Mulinge in mainstream management after having fallen out with the late Collymore is the talk of the company.
Mulinge was at one time appointed new managing director Vodacom Tanzania by Collymore, however, the move hit a snag after Tanzania denied her a work permit. She was one of those expected to succeed the late Collymore. She is among those who have no time for Ndegwa as they see him as an outsider.
The said cartel was responsible for the controversial removal of Peter Arina, then general manager of consumer business years back.
Mulinge is now chief customer officer that oversees procurement and close to MJ.
Other senior managers are Dilip Pal (chief finance officer), Joseph Ogutu (chief special projects officer), Nicholas Mulila (chief security officer), Paul Kasimu (chief human resources officer), Morten Bangsgaard (chief technology information officer), Sitoyo Lopokoiyit (chief financial services officer) Joseph Wanjohi (chief enterprise business officer) and of Chege, the corporate affairs boss.
MJ’s hand was seen in the re-organisation and merging of information technology and network departments into one. The merging saw Morten Bangsgaard, who was an information officer at Malaysian Telco, Maxis Berhadland in Nairobi. It is said although Ndegwa announced the appointment of Bangsgaard as CTIO, he was not well acquainted to him. In short, Bangsgaard is MJ project recruited while MJ was serving as interim CEO.
MJ also pushed for Sitoyo Lopokoiyot to land the plum MPesa chief executive. He was formerly Safaricom chief finance officer. MPesa was acquired from Vodafone by a joint venture formed by Safaricom and Vodacom in April last year.
New positions created by MJ but announced by Ndegwa include director fixed business and head of productivity. The return of MJ cartel has seen mass exodus of top managers fearing sack. Rita Okuthe then chief enterprise business officer left to join Kenya Pipeline Company.
Dilip Pal replaced Illana Darcy as chief finance officer. Darcy held the position in acting capacity and many expected to be confirmed. Darcy took over from Sateesh Kamath who moved to Vodafone business aschief finance officer.
That those marked at Safaricom are looking for greener pastures was recently seen when Sanda Ojiambo left as Head of Sustainable, business and social impact to join United Nations as chief executive officer and executive director Global Compacts Graphic.
An insider revealed that the procurement department was also linked to Fibre Space Ltd scandal at Safaricom. Fibre Space Ltd was single sourced to roll out another white elephant project electronic payment in transport sector.
It involved cashless payment system for matatus. The project was launched by Uhuru Kenyatta. It emerged, no request for proposal (RFP) was done nor vendor selection real tendering process undertaken.
The head of business unit Mulinge was implicated in the disappearance of contract documents and payments to Fibre Space Ltd running into US dollars 6.45 million.
That Safaricom is known to deal with crooks in mega business deals is no secret. One such is Herbither Singh Sethi as exposed.
Who is HSS, as the Asian tycoon, as is commonly referred to?
He was born and raised in Iringa but relocated in Nairobi in the 1980s.
He founded Ruaha Concrete Co Ltd that using Moi era power players irregularly received a contract from Kenya Pipeline Company to build a 9km access road.
The project cost shot up two and a half times from Sh197 million to over Sh510 million.
His other firm, Pan Africa Builders and Contractors, (Pabco), got a contract from National Social Security Fund valued at nearly Sh2 billion to construct houses, apartments and a shopping centre on the Fund’s Kitisuru Estate in Nairobi. The project was also delayed and scaled down to Sh822 million.
NSSF failed to settle Sh1.3 billion forcing Sethi to head to court. He was awarded Sh668 million, plus costs and accrued interest but received Sh590 million as settlement.
The tycoon allegedly evaded Sh260 million taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority. Why Safaricom decided to buy land suspected to have forged ownership papers has left many guessing.
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