CHAIR OF BOARD KENYA PIPELINE COMPANY
From My Eyes
What does it take to make a leap from the private sector into public service? Resilience, grit and a dogged determination to succeed. One individual defied the norm and took up the gauntlet to serve the nation at a watershed moment for Kenya’s economic recovery. That bold individual is Rita Okuthe, a trailblazer and former Enterprise Business Unit and Marketing Director at Safaricom.
In 2018, Rita accepted her appointment to the Board of the state-owned enterprise, Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). Her bold move saw her not just sit on the Board as a director, but eventually ascend to its apex as its first ever female Chair of Board in the company’s 44-year history in a 2020 Presidential gazettement. This was a great milestone as few women switch from private to public sector and lead commercial parastatal that return profit to the exchequer and of the magnitude of KPC.
Armed with over 25 years’ experience in business leadership; 11 of which were at the helm of East Africa’s most profitable organization: Safaricom, the marketing turnaround specialist dived into the deep end of the public sector with a focus on sharpening corporate governance practice at KPC. “This elevation provided me with a privileged bird’s eye-view from which vantage point I could oversee KPC’s evolution into a sectoral leader in oil and gas distribution efficiency within the East Africa region”, Rita opines.
Under her guidance, the public utility entrusted with the solemn responsibility of transporting and storing refined petroleum products for the regional economy has today transformed into one of the best rated public institutions in the country. With a dedicated Board, focused Management and committed staff, KPC has scaled enviable heights in its journey to spread its footprint in the continental arena.
Working closely and collaboratively with the KPC’s Managing Director, Dr. Macharia Irungu, among the milestones Ms. Okuthe has superintended over her tenure as the KPC Chair of Board include:
- Sustaining the institution’s high profitability and support to the Exchequer through dividend payouts to support the Big Four Agenda.
- Shift in management style as the organization has become more entrenched in a customer-centric psyche that pivots around the customer’s need in routine business planning and processes. One keynotable project under this transformation that has been completed during her tenure is the integration of the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) – Integrated Customs Management System (iCMS) and KPC’s – SAP system which has revolutionised the clearance of wet cargo in the region, enhanced tax compliance within the sector and enhanced operational efficiency by reducing truck turnaround time at the service delivery points. This automation has seen the truck loading processes reduced from 14No. – 4No. This translates to almost 2 hours.
- Business diversification into new revenue streams from leasing out of KPC’s dark fiber-optic cable which offers high-speed data to drive business. The Company has signed dark fiber lease agreements with key telecommunication firms in the industry such as Safaricom PLC, Jamii Telecommunications and Wananchi Group. This has been a major boon to the Company’s bottom line and which portfolio continues to grow with new contracts signed year-on-year.
- Begun the journey of transforming Kenya into a premier logistics hub by synergizing the mandates of KPC, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) under the aegis of the Kenya Transport and Logistics Network (KTLN).
- Successfully navigating the organization through the challenges of COVID-19 without any business disruption to the petroleum products supply chain.
In addition to these landmark achievements, Ms. Okuthe has an authoritative and persuasive charm about her that gels her board together to rally around a common vision and goal. Her style of leadership is inclusive and she is a firm believer in building consensus amongst all stakeholders for the greater good.
She is well known for her hands on approach. It is no wonder that you will see her engaging staff and visiting outer stations to ensure their welfare is taken care of as well as frequently taking the Right of Way (ROW) pipeline inspection tours.
Working alongside KPA, KPC is engaged in the ongoing construction of a second terminal at Kipevu, Mombasa, commonly referred to as KOT 2. This facility will create ample capacity for berthing four large petroleum tankers simultaneously to discharge fuel into KPC’s system, thereby reducing vessel turnaround time and the demurrage cost burden to the regional economy. The net result will be enhancement of the capacity and efficiency at the Port of Mombasa for receipt of imports, making it easily the most efficient entrepôt in the Great Lakes region.
In delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ms. Okuthe-led Board has trained its eyes on the growing and highly profitable Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) spectrum in an effort by KPC to help provide clean cooking energy for all. KPC intends to venture into this business segment with a view to making Kenya the epicenter for bulk LPG storage and logistics in the region. “We purpose to provide reliable, affordable and safe gas to the citizenry as we lead the sector in mapping out Kenya’s long-term energy blueprint”, Rita affirms. “All these initiatives are underpinned by a strong project governance framework to ensure that projects are duly prioritized, completed within set budgets and timelines, and in full compliance with regulatory guidelines and laws, “she adds.
KPC’s commitment to sustainability is unequivocal. “We can only prosper through a shared value approach, contributing to society by making smarter and more resource efficient decisions, and by working with Kenyans to ensure their lives are better through KPC’s day-to-day activities.”
“We can only prosper through a shared value approach, contributing to society by making smarter and more resource efficient decisions, and by working with Kenyans to ensure their lives are better through KPC’s day-to-day activities.”Rita Okuthe
Consequently, through KPC’s Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company, KPC has been implementing Corporate Social Investment programmes targeting communities, groups, and individuals across the country with the sole objective of empowering and transforming their lives and livelihoods.
Under Ms. Okuthe’s guidance, KPC has implemented several impactful development programs that have achieved this objective under the government’s Big Four Agenda, Kenya Vision 2030, and the SDGs such as the Inuka Scholarship Programme that sponsors disabled and needy children from all 47 counties in Kenya for primary and secondary-level education. The programme recently produced the top scoring female student in the country in 2019 in the special’s needs category, Miriam Kipkemboi Chepleting of Moi Girls High School Eldoret scored, an A of 84.44 marks and was singled out for praise by Education CS Prof. George Magoha.
KPC is also big in healthcare provision. Several free medical camps have been conducted in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nyeri, and Homa Bay. KPC is also constructing Mother and Child facility at the Lunga Lunga Health Centre. This facility will cater for many women in the surrounding slums. To enable KPC realize implementation of her CSI projects, the company sets aide 1% of Profit Before Tax (PBT) towards Corporate Social Investment CS activities annually.
The CSI focus areas for KPC are education; health and environmental conservation; water and sanitation; sports and development; and special groups empowerment (Women, Youth and Persons Living with Disabilities – PwD’s). The company continues to work collaboratively with its partners and stakeholders at community level to devise impactful development programmes that will outlast Rita’s term at the helm and generate an indelible legacy for the organization.
Rita holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Nairobi and a Master of Science degree in Marketing from London School of Economics (LSE). The highly sought corporate guru has since been drafted in various boards of organizations. Among them: Industrial Commercial and Development Company (ICDC), British Chambers of Commerce in Kenya and Care Pay. Previously, she served on the boards of Jambojet Kenya and the Kenya Advertising Standards Board.