Powerful forces behind EPRA boss’s problems

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020 00:00 | By
Mueni Mutung’a has been appointed its acting director-general after Labour Court halted the renewal Robert Oimeke’s term. Photo/PD/Courtesy

Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka

Vested interests and desire to control regulation of the multi-billion-shilling petroleum and energy sector are some of the reasons for problems facing the Director General of the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) Parvel Oimeke, Business Hub can report.

The shenanigans surrounding the renewal of his contract culminated in an EPRA board meeting on Friday last week that decided to send Oimeke on leave pending the outcome of a case where a petitioner, Emmanuel Wanjala, has challenged the DG’s second term in office.

Yesterday, the board appointed Ms Mueni Mutung’a to the corner office in an acting capacity, pending conclusion of Wanjala’s suit.

“The Board of Directors of the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) has designated Ms Mueni Mutung’a as Acting Director General, as from 17th August, 2020,” read the statement signed by the board chair, Jackton Ojwang’. Ms Mutung’a is the EPRA Secretary and Director of Legal Affairs.

Controlling Kenya’s multi-billion oil marketing industry, the Epra CEO’s position attracts a lot of vested interests from various stakeholders and entities, with the energy regulator also in charge of liquified gas and coal.

An oil industry insider privy to sector activities, but whose name we have withheld, told Business Hub that people who previously benefitted from the chaos in the sector were fighting back after Oimeke sealed the loopholes they used to exploit.

“If you ask me, it’s purely politics. Previously dumping was very rampant, he has almost eliminated it.

He has also streamlined transportation, without a truck having an EPRA licence you cannot transport. Everything is online these days,” he said.

He also said cartels who previously benefited from disorder in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) sub-sector, trucking and other loopholes were instigating Oimeke’s ouster using proxies.

Another industry source said some powerful individuals were unhappy with the clout that the EPRA boss wields especially after the petroleum component was added to the authority’s mandate.

Influential cartels

The source said the individuals working with influential cartels had been pushing for the creation of a new parastatal to regulate some aspects of the petroleum industry, but the government was not keen on the idea. 

Illustrating the kind of interest the position has, Friday’s extraordinary meeting of the EPRA board was attended by an influential Principal Secretary.

Normally, it is alternate members seconded by the ministry who attend parastatal board meetings, on behalf of PSs.

When BusinessHub reached PS for Petroleum Andrew Kamau for comment on the developments at EPRA, he declined to comment and referred this reporter to the board chair, retired Supreme Court judge Ojwang’, who could not be reached on phone.

On July 27, Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes had handed Oimeke a three-year extension at the helm of the authority starting August 1 when his term ended.

However, Justice Hellen Wasilwa on August 12 temporarily stopped the EPRA board and the ministry from deliberating renewal of Oimeke’s tenure.

Wanjala is the second petitioner to challenge Oimeke’s re-appointment resulting in Justice Wasilwa conservatory orders.

Earlier, another petitioner Dindi Oscar Okumu tried to stop the renewal of Oimeke’s contract but he withdrew the case in person without involving the lawyers who

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