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KPA boss’s ‘miracle’ misleading

The media reported a miracle at the Port of Mombasa last week. But as with most miracles, the truth lay elsewhere.

“The Kenya Ports Authority has recorded huge improvement in cargo clearance and ship performance in just a few days after the new management took office,” the Star reported on Tuesday, June 19 (p.8).

“The parastatal announced it had reduced the number of containers sitting at the port from an all time high of 22,500 to about 10,000.”

A similar report on KTN showed port MD Daniel Manduku giving details of massive container movement on June 16 and 17.

Both reports cast Manduku as a miracle worker who has turned things around at the port within a few days of taking office – far less than the magical 100 of politicians.

The new MD attributed the improvements to “efficiency measures, including seamless connection of operations between discharge and eventual delivery to location.”

In fact, the record improvements at the port started months before Manduku’s appointment. But reporters were not interested in the bigger picture. Why let facts get in the way of a nice story? Just report what you are told. Don’t question.

Manduku was named KPA boss after his predecessor Catherine Mturi-Wairi was sent on a two-month compulsory leave on May 30. The board cited incompetence and theft of containers as the reason for her suspension.

But Manduku did not report to office immediately because of two suits challenging Mturi-Wairi’s suspension. The court ordered her reinstatement pending hearing. But on June 8 Mturi-Wairi tendered her resignation.

Manduku reported to work the following week.  Last Monday when he spoke to the press about record-breaking performance at the port, he had been in office for about a week. Mturi-Wairi had not even handed over to him. She did on Thursday, June 21.

On May 28, Citizen TV reported that the government had taken action to boost efficiency at the port of Mombasa by having all undocumented cargo transferred to container freight stations in Mombasa. Manduku was not in office at the time.

“Transport CS James Macharia, Industrialization CS Adan Mohamed, ICT CS Joe Mucheru and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i toured the port over the weekend after reports emerged of cargo theft and operational losses that have made the port inefficient,” the report said.

But changes at the port did not even start with the visit by a high-powered government delegation at the end of May.

In March, CS Macharia made sweeping changes to KPA’s top management, removing 14 senior officials.

That is the context in which the improvements Manduku spoke about should be understood. They are not a miracle he pulled within a few days of taking office, as media reports would like the world to believe.

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