KENYA: Inside Nairobi Hospital board, executive fights

November 2020 BusinessDaily; Details of intriguing boardroom fights over tenders at the premier private health facility Nairobi Hospital have emerged, even as the institution’s ousted chief executive officer, Allan Pamba, demands Sh218.8 million in compensation for unfair dismissal.

Court filings by Dr Pamba link his ouster to multi-billion shilling contracts for the installation of security systems, debt collection services and the construction of the newly opened Covid-19 hospital unit.

Dr Pamba was fired in October, just six months after his appointment, on claims that he had failed to provide a performance improvement plan for the hospital—an assertion the deposed CEO denies.

He instead blames his ouster to a fallout over his refusal to prioritise the award of a fully funded Sh118 million tender for the installation of a new security system for the hospital to Opticom Kenya despite the existence of an efficiently functioning one.

The ousted CEO further claims he was targeted after he declined to prequalify a law firm, Diro Advocates LLP to the panel of advocates representing the hospital and to hire Earstar (EA) Limited for debt collection services despite requests by some members of the hospital’s board.

Dr Pamba additionally links his removal to his having opposed the award of a tender for the construction of Covid hospital by the UN at the Nairobi Hospital to Quest Civil Engineering Limited in place of China Wu Yi, which had initially been recommended for the job by the hospital’s tender committee owing to its stronger technical capabilities.

“In view of the foregoing, the claimant (Dr Pamba) submits that the respondents’ conduct and his termination was unlawful and constitute a violation of the applicable provisions of the Employment Act, the International Labour Organisation Convention, the Nairobi Hospital Human Resource Manual on Probation and his employment contract,” a petition pending before the High Court says.

Dr Pamba’s predecessor at the hospital, Gordon Odundo, was sacked in April 2019 amid similar claims of tender wars.

Dr Pamba is demanding compensation for salary and benefits that he would have drawn for the rest of his contract period.

This includes a claim of Sh117 million in salary for the remainder of his three-year term, a Sh11.7 million leave allowance, a Sh150,000 telephone allowance, a car allowance of Sh13.5 million, Sh3 million for home security and a family medical cover of Sh15 million. He is also seeking Sh36 million as salary compensation for 12 months.

Dr Pamba was appointed as the hospital CEO on March 4, 2020 but sacked on October 2 through a communication by the board chairman, Irungu Ndirangu.

The ousted CEO says he was summoned to a special meeting of the hospital board on October 2, where he was asked to step aside despite his removal having not been listed on the agenda for discussion.

He was later informed that the board had unanimously resolved to terminate his contract.

Dr Pamba in the court petition also links the sacking to his refusal to accept the extension of his probation for another three months. He moved to court seeking an injunction restraining the hospital management from terminating his contract, pending the determination of the case.

But Justice Maureen Onyango declined to grant him the orders he sought, saying his relationship with Dr Ndirangu, the board chairman, was already strained and that it would not be logical for the two to be forced to work together.

In the petition, Dr Pamba says he performed his job diligently for six months and was willing to continue for the remainder of his three-year contract, but it was unlawfully terminated.

The deposed CEO through his lawyer, Paul Muite, says that Dr Ndirangu was supposed to document his performance and forward them to the human resource director but he allegedly failed to arrange for meetings in compliance with the human resource manual on probation.

According to Dr Pamba, the first evaluation was to be conducted after four months and the second one two weeks to the end of the probation period. But the evaluation was done in his absence and without his input.

He was later issued with a memo setting out how he would remedy some irregularities based on what he termed an unlawful evaluation process. He scored above expectation in his first and second evaluations while on the third one, he allegedly scored below expectation.

But he said the probation evaluation was actuated by malice, vendetta and with-hunt and extraneous considerations because it was not based on his job description.

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