Huduma Kenya has a new boss. Mr Benjamin Kai Chilumo has been appointed to serve as the new Chief Executive Office. Mr Kai is an experienced accountant with over 20 years of professional experience.
Indeed, his appointment comes at a crucial time for Huduma Kenya and Huduma Centres. For instance, Huduma Kenya is currently implementing the Huduma Kenya Digitalization Plan.
The Plan proposes to deepen access to Government’s digital services through the introduction of new platforms and revamping the existing Huduma Kenya platforms to offer self-service, in-person, and assisted services.
Moreover, Huduma Centres have changed their mode of operation. Recently, they announced that all visits to Huduma centres will strictly be after booking online appointments.
Currently, 18 high-traffic Huduma Centres have started operating for extended hours from 7 am to 7 pm.
We look at the profile of Mr. Kai who will be tasked with change management and implementing this strategic digitalization plan.
Benjamin Kai Chilumo Personal Profile
Benjamin Chilumo Kai was born to Esther Kwekwe and Lazarus Chilumo Kai. He was born in 1973 and is married to his wife Hydah.
The couple has been blessed with a son named Wedner and, a daughter named Talanta.
According to his LinkedIn profile, the new head of Huduma Kenya has an extensive career working in both the private and public sectors.
Here are the roles he has served in:
Kilifi County Government: Chief Finance Officer: Oct 2013 – June 2022· 9 yrs. 8 months
Mombasa County Office of the Controller of Budget: County Budget Coordinator: Feb 2013
Bake N bite ltd: Chief Accountant: Sep 2012 – Jan 2013 · 5
Mombasa Water Company: Head of Finance: Oct 2006 – May 2012 · 5 yrs. 8
Express Kenya Ltd: Assistant Chief Accountant: Jan 1997 – Sep 2006
For his MBA at the School of the Business University of Nairobi, Mr Kai presented a paper on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. The research was titled “TURN OF THE MONTH EFFECT: EVIDENCE FROM THE NAIROBI SECURITIES EXCHANGE”
In addition, he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Mr Kai is also a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK).
Political Aspirations and EACC Controversies
In the national general elections held in August 2022, Mr Kai vied for the Kilifi senatorial seat. He was a candidate for the Pamoja Africa Alliance (PAA).
It is important to note that PAA was led by Amason Kingi, the current speaker of the senate. However, Mr Kai was not successful in his quest.
He came second after garnering 69,917 votes.
Furthermore, his political aspiration was not without controversy. Benjamin Kai dismissed graft allegations levelled against him by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
In brief, EACC was accusing Kai of defrauding the Kilifi County government Sh250 million, while serving as a Chief Finance Officer.
However, Mr Kai denounced the allegations saying he had a clean record while serving the county government. In fact, he claimed he was a whistleblower when the Kilifi County government was robbed of KSH 51 million in 2015.
“I was among the first whistleblowers of the first Sh51 million shillings that the county government was said to have been stolen back in 2015,” he said
Stalled Projects and Lack of Basic Services
During Ben Kai’s tenure as Chief Officer for Finance, in Kilifi County, a motion was moved in the county assembly to decentralize the functions of his office. In brief, Members of the County Assembly (MCA’s) supporting the motion noted that several county activities were stalling due to Kai’s grip on all county finances.
For instance, an MCA noted that Mr Kai had taken away the powers of other Chief Officers leading other departments. Thus, the Chief Officers were not able to serve the county as they had in the previous administration.
As a result, Kilifi county defaulted on its financial obligations to contractors and suppliers. This lead to stalled projects across the county. In addition, the county was unable to provide basic services like garbage collection due to lack of funds.
“Today, contractors are running away from Kilifi County. Their properties have also been auctioned or confiscated by the banks because of non-payment and it is a bit ironic because we are receiving money from both the County and National Governments and it is upon every Department to take care of that money so that all the contractors that performed in all the Departments are paid in good time.”: stated Hon. Pascal
In the year 2016, Mr Kai filed a case at the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Malindi against the County Assembly of Kilifi, the Speaker of The County Assembly of Kilifi, the Governor of Kilifi County and the Kilifi County Public Service Board.
This was after a Committee on General Oversight stated that the conduct of Mr Kai and the County Secretary at the time, was not in sync with holders of public office.
Consequently, the Committee recommended that the relevant authorities should take disciplinary action against Mr Kai and the then County Secretary.
Hence, after sitting and discussing, the General Oversight Committee adopted a report recommending Mr Kai and the County Secretary step aside to pave the way for investigations.
Kai found this action unlawful and not following due process. In the end, the court agreed with Mr Kai’s petition and quashed the recommendations of the oversight committee.
Mr Kai as Respondent
On 17th January 2020, a Petitioner, Alfred Sifa Dena filed a petition together with a Notice of Motion under a certificate of urgency seeking conservatory and final prerogative orders.
The petition asked the court to bar the Respondent, Benjamin Kai Chilumo from enforcing a letter dated 9th January 2020.
The later suspended Mr Sifa from exercising the duties of his office as Director, Revenue Management in the Department of Finance and Planning of the County Government of Kilifi.
Again, the court sided with Mr Kai striking out the pleas of Alfred Sifa completely.
Activist Raises Concern on Kai’s Appointment
An activist, named Hezron Lawi expressed his concern over Mr. Kai’s nomination. The activist noted that Kai and the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Gender and Affirmative Action, Aisha Jumwa are from the same county.
This did not sit well with the activist, who alluded to tribalism and regional politics in the appointment of the Huduma Kenya boss.
“There is an urgent need to raise the red flag now considering the history of this country where nepotism is the order of the day and we have seen this even in the appointments made by the President,” he says in part of his statement.
Mr Lawi was also concerned with the allegations of corruption surrounding Mr Kai’s tenure at the finance docket in Kilifi.
During Mr Kai’s tenure in Kilifi county government, EACC, deputy chief executive Michael Mubea had stated they were investigating the possible loss of 1.18 bn from the county coffers
Needless to say, the loss of public money when he was in charge of the finance department is not a good omen.
As Benjamin Kai starts his reign as CEO of Huduma Kenya, Kenyans will be looking at him to use his wealth of experience to bring change. Huduma Centres serve as key service delivery centres for all residents of Kenya.
Hence, any positive changes witnessed during his reign will be truly appreciated.