Kenya ICT Board Faces More Conflict Allegations

Less than a year after the Kenya ICT board started operating, it is facing a second round of allegations of conflict of interest.

The current conflict stems from the board's decision to sponsor the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) student exhibition (Kenya chapter), organized by a board member, Kevit Desai.

Board CEO Paul Kukubo said the group will support IEEE 2008 as a way of promoting innovation within local universities.

However, Alex Gakuru, chairman of the Kenya ICT Consumers Association, has criticized the board and its members for doing business with themselves and claiming that there is no conflict of interest.

Desai defended the move, saying that IEEE is an international event and Kenyans should be allowed to participate. The IEEE exhibition is a not-for-profit event in its 11th year and promotes high-level networking skills among students in local universities, he said.

For his part, Gakuru challenged the board to publish on its Web site information on what all the board members own and the interests they have in the industry. If the board intends to support one of its own, it should be open to public scrutiny, he said.

Meanwhile, allegations of conflict of interest have dogged the Kenya College of Communications and Technology (KCCT) after it emerged that the college had awarded a board member the contract to train students learning Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

Nicholas Nesbitt, a board member at KCCT who also runs the Kencall, a call center, allegedly entered into an arrangement with KCCT to give the students internships at his company. The arrangement has been acknowledged, but the bone of contention is whether there is a contract and whether there is money changing hands. The debate also raised a variety of definitions on what is considered conflict of interest.

Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, denied there was any conflict because the company was only providing internship opportunities.

John Walubengo, an IT lecturer and information analyst, thought that the issue has been sensationalized. "My understanding is that KCCT has been developing their BPO training capacity even before their new board was appointed early this year. The format was that the KCCT BPO students would train in-house on the various skills, but move externally to one of the BPO centers for the practicals. I would not therefore say that a board member might have abused their position to direct business to themselves as insinuated."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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