Geothermal Development Company managing director and chief executive Johnson Ole Nchoe is a lucky man. Days after the board of directors recommended that he paves way for a new CEO over below-par performance, Energy cabinet secretary Charles Keter nullified the GDC board’s appraisal and extended Nchoe’s term by one more year.
In the appraisal, the board rated Nchoe at measly 39.6pc for the six months leading to December and 39.8pc for the year ended June last year.
Weekly Citizen learnt from sources within the board that Nchoe, with his term nearing its end, late last year penned a letter to the board copied to the CS offering to stay on for another three years.
But in February this year, the board, chaired by Gershom Otachi convened a special meeting in which they not only returned a ‘no’ verdict based on evaluation, but also put it in writing.
A source within the organisation claim that Nchoe is one of those CEOs being used by a section in the ruling Jubilee wing to award contracts to favoured firms linked to William Ruto allies and politicians associated with his camp.
A senior cabinet secretary is also said to have influenced his lover to land lucrative tenders at the parastatal courtesy of the CEO. The CS is well known for his sex exploits and uses tender awards in parastatals to lure ladies in bed.
The mess at Geothermal is big and with renewal of CEO contract many fear looting will be business as usual. Otachi who is a lawyer is close to Uhuru Kenyatta and was appointed by the head of state to clear the illgoings at GDC. Reports indicate that the board has been working on other modalities to remove Nchoe from the helm.
“At the 172nd special general meeting of the board of directors held at Kawi House on February 18, the board resolved to recommend to you that his term NOT to be renewed as per a copy of the resolution annexed hereto,” the letter dated February 25 to CS Keter says in part.
The letter signed by Otachi on the board’s behalf goes on to clarify thus: “The board proposes to commence the exercise of recruitment of a replacement as soon as possible and seeks your direction in the matter.”
Other than Otachi, the GDC board membership includes Nelly Yatich, Mwendia Nyaga, Anne Too and Kamau Kuria.
Nchoe’s tribulations in the hands of the board came at a time GDC was staring at possible multimillion shillings losses in geothermal well projects, including the Sh1.4 billion loss to a dubious Chinese firm that had been awarded the tender when the CEO had barely settled in office following his April Fool’s Day appointment in 2016.
The intrigues at GDC would later culminate into a harsh verdict returned by the board’s audit committee on the status of GDC field offices, depicting a rundown of an institution whose equipment had been left idle, neglected and underutilised.
Nchoe was on April 1 2016 plucked from a Liberian firm to head the GDC, a special purpose vehicle established in 2008 to accelerate the development of geothermal resources in Kenya.
Having worked as ICT head at Kenya Power until 2013, Nchoe was expected to drive the development of steam fields, with an eye on developing green energy for the country from geothermal resources.
The Nchoe-GDC fiasco brings to the fore multiple 2022 political intrigues dogging the billion-dollar energy sector roping in the Energy ministry mandarins under the watch of Keter.
Knowledgeable sources further intimate that Keter’s defiance of the GDC board to extend Nchoe’s term was informed by Ruto’s designs on Narok governorship in 2022 upon the lapse of Governor Samuel Tunai’s second and final term.
Weekly Citizen understands that the DP is positioning Nchoe to succeed Tunai in 2022, hence the need to aide him consolidate his warchest while still serving at the state corporation considered a cash cow alongside other parastatals in the Energy ministry. Nchoe vied for the governorship in 2013 and lost to Tunai.
Still, a vulnerable chief executive at a strategic government agency like GDC is expected to help pool resources towards the DP’s 2022 presidential campaigns.
In retrospect, the ministry of Energy has for long been hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons, with strategic state corporations cited in multi-billion scandals ranging from raising funds for the Jubilee campaigns in 2017 to fattening top government official’s pockets.
At the centre of controversy are public institutions including the Kenya Power, Kenya Pipeline Company, National Oil Corporation and Kenya Electricity Transmission Company that have variously elicited audit queries pointing at massive plunder in lost billions.
Such are the politically instigated losses that have seen top government officials headline the renewed war on corruption, with KPLC and KPC managers booking a date with anti-graft agencies and law courts.
Suspended Kenya Power CEO Ken Tarus and his predecessor Ben Chumo are among top officials to have been arrested and charged with various corruption offences.
At KPC, MD Joe Sang and several top managers were arrested and subsequently presented before court over multi-billion shillings improprieties.
The lucrative power sector has for long been seen to be the cash cow for top government officials with proceeds of multibillions scandals known to have been funding political activities of privileged individuals within and without government.
One Ruto ally alleged to be looting GDC is majority leader in parliament Aden Duale.