The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has admitted that the majority of its employees are from one dominant ethnic community after it absorbed the staff of the defunct Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) in 2021.
Managing director William Ruto told the Senate Committee on National Cohesion that 123 out of 263 former KFS staff were from one ethnic group.
Out of the current 412 KPA staff, the Bajuni community holds the lion’s share of 73, followed by the Luo (48), Kikuyu (43), and Mijikenda (41).
The least employed communities by KPA are Tharaka, Samburu, Nubi, Kuria and Embu with one slot each.
Turkana, Rendile, and Burji have two employees each while Meru and Maasai have three persons each employed at the KPA.
Documents tabled before the committee chaired by Marsabit Senator Mohammed Chute show that only four Kenyan Arabs and five Swahili are employed by the State agency.
“Historical factors may have resulted in one dominant ethnic community having much higher representation,” Mr Ruto told Senators.
“In addition, the authority for many years employed staff on a casual basis. Most of these staff (many of whom were drawn from local communities) were later engaged on contract and later had their terms changed to permanent terms.”
Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu had flagged the Mombasa-based port operator for flouting the law that requires that not more than 30 percent of employees come from one tribe.
The Constitution and the National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 require that all public entities seek to represent the diversity of the people of Kenya in hiring staff and that no public establishment shall have more than one-third of its staff from the same ethnic community.
“The authority is currently renewing efforts to ensure compliance with section 7(2) of the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008,” said Mr Ruto.
Mr Ruto said the current staff numbers and composition in terms of ethnic composition may be historical in that the dominant community may have had more representation, especially before the National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008.
“The Authority has recently made efforts to improve the numbers by actively hiring/recruiting from under-represented communities hence reducing the numbers of dominant ethnic community to ensure that in the long run, there is compliance with the Constitution.”
Captain Ruto told the Senate team which is probing compliance with the constitutional requirement on ethnic composition in employment that the KPA’s most recent mass recruitment saw 31 members of the Gabra, Borana, and Rendile which previously had very low representation hired by the KPA.
“Quotas is one such strategy that the Authority intends to entrench its planned recruitments, not just for minorities but also for persons with disability and women,” the KPA boss said.
“The Authority also now has an e-recruitment digital platform which puts it in a better position to improve the male-to-female ratio in compliance with the Public Service Commission Human Resource and Procedure Manual for Public Service 2015 on gender rules.”
The Constitution introduced the ethnic representation requirements to check a historical trend where the tribesmen of those in power were favoured during recruitment.
Under the diversity policy for State Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) released in December 2015 by the Public Service Commission (PSC), ethnic groups whose job representation surpasses their corresponding national population proportion are considered to be over-represented.