- Dr Leakey argued that the absence of a board for three months had left the weighty issue of operations in the hands of Mr Balala’s ministry.
- Dr Leakey is accused of heavy-handedness and various irregularities during his three-year tenure, including multiple violations of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013.
The death of the 11 black rhinos relocated to the Tsavo East National Park in June may have shocked Kenyans and caused outrage among wildlife conservationists the world over.
But the historic blunder also brought to light systemic malpractices, ineptitude and impunity at the helm of the country’s wildlife management agency.
Details have emerged about personal vendettas and sabotage that have rocked the boat at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for years, paralysing the agency’s operations.
Circuses pitting the management of KWS and the Board of Trustees have been the order of the day for years, leading to senior officers blocking government efforts to restructure the agency, which has a budget of Sh7 billion annually.
The agency raises Sh3 billion from its activities with the Treasury (Sh3 billion) and donors (Sh1 billion) paying for the rest.
These chaos — effects of which manifested in the catastrophic translocation — have also given poachers the leeway to operate with abandon within some Kenyan parks, while unscrupulous donors have constantly arm-twisted the agency.
An assessment carried out earlier this year by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers blew the lid on pervasive non-compliance with laws, regulations and organisational practices at KWS.
The organisational risk assessment, done on behalf of United States Agency for International Development (USaid), was to determine whether KWS had the requisite systems, operations and internal controls to best utilise funds from the donor.
The audit report instead exposed KWS’s inability to properly manage funds and utilise donor money.
Furthermore, the audit exposed the human resource management mess, where staff morale has hit rock bottom, affecting productivity and retention of key skills.
While senior management is laden with ageing men and women, most of the staff are hired on a temporary basis.
Notably, 316 members of staff are serving the agency in acting capacities, including 71 in senior management positions for prolonged periods.
Ms Nancy Saumu, a former board member, revealed to the Nation that wrangles between the board and the management of KWS is nothing new.
“The management blatantly ignored any recommendations on various administrative issues that we made as the board or from other parties. They always came up with excuses for not implementing such recommendations,” Ms Saumu said.
According to her, the board had severally expressed concerns about the bulging number of temporary staff at KWS, upon which the management promised to advertise the positions.
“By the time our term expired, the positions had yet to be advertised, with the occupants still holding them in acting capacities,” she said.
The misunderstanding between the two administrative organs reached its watershed when former KWS director-general Kitili Mbathi quit in July 2017, less than two years in office, citing “micromanagement” by the board chair, Dr Richard Leakey.