Why Kung’u was picked as Kenya National Highways Authority boss
Through his elevation as the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) director general, Kung’u Ndung’u has been thrust into the helm of one of the critical government agencies President Uhuru Kenyatta is relying on to shape his legacy ahead of his retirement next year.
Coming 10 months to the next General Election, Kung’u, who succeeded Peter Mundinia following the expiry of his contract on August 28, 2021, now shoulders a huge task of overseeing implementation of major road projects being undertaken in various parts of the country.
Kung’u, who prior to his appointment was the director in charge of Road Asset and Corridor Management at the agency is reported to have impressed the interview panel because of his past records among them construction of the Dongo Kundu project, Mwache Bridge across the Indian Ocean to Kwale and completion of the Kitui – Kibwezi road project ahead of schedule despite numerous land acquisition challenges.
He was also named the employee of the year in 2017, and Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA), that is chaired by Wangai Ndirangu concluded he is “efficient and committed to service delivery” at the agency whose responsibility includes management, development, rehabilitation and maintenance of roads connecting major urban centres and international borders.
“The board made difficult decisions to shield the process from political and commercial pressures on the best-suited candidate to take over the mantle of this important authority,” Eng Wangai said of the interviews that were concluded last week.
Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia subsequently announced Kung’u’s appointment on Friday.
Politicians among them presidential candidates and MPs, some contractors and power brokers had engaged in intense lobbying as they seek to have their preferred candidate’s triumph as part of their efforts to control the highly budgeted parastatal.
Dozens of engineers from both within and outside the parastatal applied for the position whose term is three years, with a possibility of a single renewal “subject to satisfactory performance and delivery of the set performance targets and outcomes.”
The board, according to sources within the Bara Bara Plaza-based agency, is reported to have considered candidates who had demonstrated commitment to hard work and transformative ideas especially considering that appointment was coinciding with ambitious projects to be carried out by the agency in line in the Big Four Agenda which are Uhuru’s legacy projects.
Previously, Kung’u has been responsible for large road development projects and maintenance, which was an added advantage for him during the interview, with the CS saying he has a wide knowledge in roads engineering and has demonstrated knowledge and qualities of leadership and management which covered prudent financial management, human resource management and good governance.
Insiders say Kung’u has a “no nonsense approach to work”, noting that while he served as Road Maintenance boss at the agency, he is reported to have not hesitated to sanction and even terminate non-performing contractors, some of who allegedly tried to lobby to his disadvantage in vain.
In his previous assignment, the holder of a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from University of Nairobi and an executive master’s degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) introduced changes aimed at enhancing performance and efficiency, and his appointment and staff are reported to have welcomed his elevation.
Among the projects which he will oversee their implementation is the expansion of the Sh160 billion Rironi-Nakuru-Mau Summit Road which is set to be Kenya’s second toll highway and the 114-kilometre Garsen-Witu-Lamu road.
The other mega project include construction of 27 kilometre Sh62 billion Nairobi Expressway.
Further work is underway on the Sh30 billion-540km Mau Mau road, which connects Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri and Nyandarua counties.
There is also Kenol-Sagana-Marua dual carriageway, a segment of the proposed 219km Kenol-Isiolo road to be realised in two phases -Kenol-Marua (84 km) and Marua-Isiolo (135 km) with the former, whose cost is Sh16 billion, already underway.
The Western bypass, which is a 15.3 kilometres dual carriageway traverses Kabete and Kiambaa constituencies from Gitaru on Nairobi-Nakuru highway through Wangige and Ndenderu and terminates at Ruaka where it joins Northern Bypass which connects Kiambu and Thika roads leading to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as well as Mombasa Road via Eastern By-Pass.