The lies and shiny outside of East Africa’s biggest Telco, Safaricom Plc, that has been over the years propped up by Public Relations has begun to wane.
An ugly infighting that has escalated pitting board Chairman Michael Joseph (former/founding CEO) and current CEO Peter Ndegwa’s camp seems likely as the straw that will break the camel’s back.
They say that corruption in the private sector is shocking as government’s.
It was clear that Michael Joseph, who referred Bob Collymore (late CEO) as ‘a white man in an African body’ didn’t want the firm to be headed by another African.
MJ as he is fondly known, (we know him as Mr 10 percent, due to his bribe taking ways), was not a great manager, he was just lucky. Collymore, despite his shortcoming, which are inexcusable, did a lot for the firm. MJ was jealous.
The storm at Safaricom is about procurement and tender. The tender wars emanates from the divisions that MJ created after his short stint as CEO after Collymore’s death.
It is said, he sidelined Collymore’s ‘people’ and fixed his own. It was a game of chess against the Kenyan government which had insisted on a local to take over from Bob Collymore.
“MJ perfected the art of isolating Collymore blue eyed boys in favour of his own cartel,” a source told Weekly Citizen.
It is said that after edging out former board chair Nicholas Ng’ang’a, Michael Joseph’s relationship with Peter Ndegwa is at an all-time low.
MJ who has been unable to turn around the fortunes of Kenya Airways seems to be on a firm-destruction spree.
In the melee, 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, who is the chief corporate affairs officer.
Chege is aligned with the MJ faction, through his and Mj’s influence, under the guise of the Covid-19 crisis, they purchased a questionable piece of prime land in the city 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.
Moi family owns shares in Safaricom and this is not the only thing generating a lot of heat. Gideon Moi who seems to be the heir-apparent to the Moi estate does not see eye to eye with Kulei.
It is said that Chege is married to Kulei’s daughter hence, he is his son-in-law. That raises more questions than answers.
Well-placed sources say that 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 fast-tracked within a period of weeks.
Chege is said to collude with the procurement department to mint millions of shillings in Safaricom land purchases.
Michael Joseph Safaricom’s board chair and first CEO
Questionable sub-contractors and white elephant headquarters project
Safaricom was also sold another land by a questionable character, Harbinder Singh Sethi.
The land near Garden City was to be used for construction of a headquarter that is full owned by Safaricom Plc. The project had the blessings of Vodafone, Safaricom foreign owners.
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. This was so as to save on rent.
The Asian tycoon Sethi is, interestingly the owner of the current Safaricom twin buildings headquarters along Nairobi’s Waiyaki way. He is milking high rent from Safaricom the main tenant.
It is surprising that 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.
In the confusion of things, Peter Ndegwa, who is viewed as an outsider even by the Safaricom Killer Diector and Chief Customer Officer Sylvia Mulinge is being used as a stepping stone, where if things go south, he is asked to resign.
An array of bad investment decisions and system downtimes have bedeviled the firm since Peter Ndegwa took over, it is now clear that it is sabotage from the inside.
Safaricom’s PR machinery that was under shadowy WPP Scan Group whose founding CEO was recently hounded out due to misappropriation of funds and sexual harassment has left the firm with no formidable PR machinery to handle the bad publicity.
The major ones being the Home Fibre saga, MPESA weekly downtime, and court cases involving Intellectual Property Rights which will surely dent Safaricom’s image if it is not averted early. Posturing in the aforementioned matters have not helped the firm much, it would’ve been easy to seek dialogue with some instead of trying to muzzle them.
Cnyakundi.com is even aware that Safaricom has ignored the court injunction issued to it over the use of MPESA Bill Manager for Businesses. A classic mistake and slippery slope the firm is on.
Tribunal puts a stop to Safaricom’s MPESA Bill Manager for Businesses
Peter Ndegwa appears not to be in control, for, what are the procedures of firing people aligned with MJ and put things in order? What is so hard?
Sylvia Muinge, for starters was rejected by Tanzania, where she had been seconded by late Bob Collymore, for position of CEO there.
The squabbles in management has pushed some people out. 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.
Sateesh Kamath who moved to Vodafone business as chief finance officer.
Rita Okuthe then chief enterprise business officer left to join Kenya Pipeline Company.
The MJ cartel was responsible for the controversial removal of Peter Arina, then general manager of consumer business years back.
Safaricom Chief Customer Officer Sylvia Muthoni Mulinge (Left) and CEO Peter Ndegwa. Ms Mulinge who has a case of murder to answer considers Ndegwa as an outsider. Michael Joseph is the rift creator.
More rot in the procurement department, crooked contractors
Fibre Space Limited is sadi to have been single-sourced by the Telco to roll out electronic payment in transport sector.
The project proved to be a white elephant as it collapsed a few weeks after launch by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
It emerged that the tendering for the project didn’t involve a Request for Proposal as is the case with rightfully followed procedures.
The then head of business unit Sylvia Mulinge was implicated in the disappearance of contract documents and payments to Fibre Space Ltd running into Sh710 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?
Sethi ame to Nairobi in the 1980s, founded Ruaha Concrete Co Ltd that used 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.