Four top executives exit Kenya Airways as turnaround quest gains steam

By Mugambi mutegi | Business Daily, Kenya October 9, 2017

Four top executives have left Kenya Airways  this week as the shake-up of the airline’s senior management continues under the watch of its new chief executive Sebastian Mikosz.

Catherine Moraa (head of internal audit), Lucy Muhiu (head of employee relations), Kevin Kinyanjui (information systems director), and Brian Mbuti (in-flight and jet fuel procurement) have all left the company.

KQ’s human resource director Sammy Chepkwony, in a memo to staff, said the four had “resigned” from their positions even as he announced that Judith Ochieng’ would replace Mr Mbuti in acting capacity.

The exits come a month after Mr Mikosz hired five expatriates from Poland – his home country –, a decision that has caused tension among workers who see it as a purge of individuals hired under the leadership of former CEOs.

“We not only recognise the long service rendered to Kenya Airways by these colleagues, but also the various individual achievements and contributions they have each made over the years,” said Mr Chepkwony.

“On behalf of the Kenya Airways family, I wish them and their families all the very best in the future endeavors.”

Ms Moraa, Ms Muhiu and Mr Kinyanjui have all served the company for over a dozen years and have been instrumental in KQ’s operations under former CEOs Titus Naikuni and Mbuvi Ngunze.

A fortnight ago, it emerged that Mr Mikosz, with the blessing of the KQ board, had hired five expatriates his former employer, LOT Polish Airlines, effective September 1.

The new CEO, who took over the reins of the troubled KQ from Mr Ngunze on June 1, said the five have been brought on board for a three-month contract but fell short of clarifying whether the contracts are subject to extension.

“The advantage of these guys is that I trust them and I have worked with them. They could hit the ground (running) within I think three weeks. Will they stay? Will they not stay? That is not decided,” Mr Mikosz said on September 21.

The five are Monika Kietyka-Michna, Edyta Kijewska-Teny, Magdalena Serwach, Marcin Celejewski and Micha Mierciak.

Their jobs at KQ were not been specified, but Mr Mikosz explained that the new team would not be replacing any members of KQ’s senior management but would, rather, work with the existing team to improve operations.

Power Shift

The emerging power shift had, until now, reportedly led to the departure of at least three senior KQ managers including its director of flight operations Noel Malinda who left the position to resume flying.

The entry of Mr Mikosz’s team signals the company’s belief that negligence or incompetence of its top leadership played a role in its slump to losses that wiped out shareholder wealth.

Their recruitment has brooked protest.

In a statement, the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) deemed the decision to hire the Polish nationals as “unacceptable”, adding that the move would exacerbate tensions at the national carrier.

“Therefore the current chief executive officer Mr Mikosz should bear in mind that Kenya has people…some people more qualified than him and there is no need for him to hire first line managers from his own country of origin,” the union said.

Ms Kietyka-Michna, a former chief corporate officer at LOT Polish Airlines, has knowledge of strategic management in back office operations.

Ms Kijewska-Teny understands data and IT systems having previously worked for Poland’s national carrier as programme manager for implementing its business process management software.

Ms Serwach is a corporate lawyer with experience in corporate governance, cohesion and compliance of internal corporate procedures.

Mr Celejewski, an “author and implementer of growth and development strategies”, previously worked for LOT Polish Airlines as chief commercial officer.

Mr Mierciak is a procurement expert and centralised the purchase function at Poland’s national airline.

The new team has been tasked with implementing key objectives throughout the company, including creating, driving and guarding cohesion of KQ strategy.

They will build a reporting system to enable the monitoring of key performance targets and providing fair and transparent information on company performance.

They will monitor and support the execution of all functional and project actions of the company, including special projects set by Mr Mikosz.

Related stories

AsokoNews Brief

Sign up for our weekly Africa Business Digest, highlighting the Top 5 stories per sector