By Special Correspondent:
When Captain Gilbert Kibe was appointed as Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director General for a period of three years with effect from 23rd April 2015, the story of an incompetent manager who had mismanaged and run down two Corporations was never fully told.
When Kibes’s appointment was made via a Kenya Gazette Notice no 4008 vol. CXVII- no 58 of 5th June 2015, he was described as glittering terms. The public was misled to believe he was the best qualified to head KCAA.
However, a closer look at the man’s corporate history tell a completely different story. Not only did he run down two companies into insolvency, Kibe lacks prerequisite technical qualifications to head a strategic regulatory organization such as the KCAA.
Today, as we delve into the background of a man who is totally in control of Kenya’s dwindling fortunes and increasingly risky sky we uncover a man who been variously described as is arrogant, plagued by failure and with a historical problem working with indigenous air operators who refuse to pay protection fee to him.
The law requires the Director General of KCAA to be a vastly experienced aviator. Kibe’s experience in aviation can be best described as negligible.
Usually, flight hours on commercial flights is used to show the experience of pilots, with the more flight hours a pilot has done, the more the experience.
Kibe’s only experience in the air is by 2-seater fixed-wing aircraft during his time as instructor in the now collapsed Nairobi Flight Training Ltd which he owned.
Kibe’s incompetence is exemplified by the collapse of Eagle Aviation, a Mombasa based operator he co-owned and managed with Kiran Patel. The airline run into turbulence and wound up in 2003.
Another insolvent firm Kibe co-owned and managed with Charles Muthama is Aero Kenya which collapsed in 2010
Subsequently, it can be safely concluded that the unending problems KCAA has with local air operators stems primarily from Kibe’s inexperience and incompetence as an aviator.
But it is Kibe’s time at KCAA that has been anything but dramatic. Morale at KCAA is said to have become disastrously low following his appointment and many technically proficient staff had resigned to seek greener pastures elsewhere.
As a well-connected Director General, Kibe has managed to render the Board of Directors powerless and ineffective due to his perceived closeness with the powers that be in the national government. He has become so powerful that the Board Chair Joseph NKadayo now answers to him on board proceedings.
A source at KCAA said Kibe abused his powers with wanton impunity and violated the employment regulations at the state corporation. The Director General reportedly employed his concubines Sheila Kemunto and Praktisha Patel and gave them high ranking positions in the Licensing Department and Air Worthiness Inspection, both said to be lucrative positions.
Apart from acting as his mistresses, both Kemunto and Patel worked with Kibe at his collapsed Nairobi Flight Training Ltd. As part of an infamous extortion cartel, the two ladies have been very effective for harassing air operators and blackmailing them on behalf of Kibe. The cartel is putting personal profit before public safety.
Frustrated stakeholders told us how Kibe has remained oblivious of the changing demands of the aviation sector. Despite rapid developments in the global aviation sector, KCAA remained the old colonial relic that was replete with obsolete bureaucracy.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an employee who works under said: ‘Kibe has always been more focused on clamping down on air operators rather than improving the environment in which they operate. He’s not tried anything innovative or to re-brand or do anything different.’
The consequence of his inability to inspire positive change has been attributed to the sorry state of the aviation industry which is a pillar of the tourism industry employing thousands directly and submitting hundreds of millions annually to the exchequer in taxes and levies.
Recently the Auditor General has raised red flags on payment of millions of shillings irregularly paid to Kibe as subsistence allowance for several months raising serious queries on the agency’s spending and the director general’s overseas travels.
Kibe has clocked millions of frequent flier miles and in the process made a fortune in per diem payments over and above his own perks leading the Auditor General to question the deals
With recent crisis of air accidents and near missed, the only solution Kibe’s could propose to government was the unlawful, unwarranted and unilateral closure of Wilson Airport.
Industry insiders contend that unless Kibe is removed and a new strategic plan prepared for KCAA, the future of aviation in Kenya remains bleak due to repeated failure in its regulatory role, and the poor work environment for KCAA staff. KCAA cannot assure air safety due to distrust among top executives and a dysfunctional board.