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Kenya Tourism

Kenya tourism saga rages on

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Jan 13, 2009

Further investigations, and additional information received from Nairobi, now allows an update on the Kenya Tourist Board saga, where the CEO, Dr Achieng Ongong’a, was forced to resign/speak in effect fired, with pending investigations hanging over his head still and possible criminal charges coming up against him in court. It was also confirmed that a director of the board of KTB, a prominent safari/tour operator, was stripped of his position and another person appointed to the board in his stead.

The machinations of unauthorized and possibly fraudulent expenditure reaching nearly 70 million Kenya shillings (US$900,000), did take place at a time when no actual board of directors was in place, while the Kenyan Ministry of Tourism took its sweet time to ponder a decision. The term of office of the former board expired, according to reliably information, on December 31, 2007, and probably due to the political situation in Kenya in the first quarter of 2008, but more likely due to the Ministry of Tourism dragging its feet over the decision, no board came into effect until much later in the year.

When, therefore, in August 2008 a new board was eventually appointed, including members who had served during the previous term of office, the chairman and fellow board members reacting to rumors in the city of Nairobi then reacted immediately and brought about an investigation, which took until December before a sound decision based on facts could be made.

That notwithstanding, Ongong’a lays heavy blame on the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Rebecca Nabutola, whom he more or less accused to have been fully informed of his decisions and who allegedly had agreed with him and sanctioned the payments that led to his downfall. However, information at hand also suggests that the correspondence for release of the funds in question to the Catering and Training Levy Trustees had been signed by KTB’s former CEO alone and not the permanent secretary. More investigations may be necessary to scrutinize the paper trail and find out who knew what and when.

The practice in East Africa, to set fixed terms for boards of public institutions and organizations has often led to a vacuum, as was the case for an extraordinarily long period of time in Uganda too, and once again shown its shortfalls, as the moment a term lapses it may in fact take months, at times even longer, before a new board is appointed by the relevant authority. Meanwhile, unscrupulous management can – as was the case here – short-circuit procurement procedures and other activities which ordinarily require board approval, or could (not the case here) run riot with their day to day work and planning for the future of the organization, as the system of checks and balances is disrupted in the absence of the board.

At this time, the board of KTB itself, with the exception of the one single and now sacked board member, has been without fault in the affair and the culpability lies with the former CEO and his fellow conspirators within the beneficiary firms and possibly elsewhere. It is expected that with the guidance of the Chairman, Kenya’s tourism guru Jake Grieves-Cook and his fellow board members, the organization will not sustain lasting damage to its reputation and functionality and things are undoubtedly back ‘to normal’ within a very short period of time.

Kenya tourism saga rages on
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