Septuagenarians and Auditor Changes on Kenyan Boards

Last week brought news that Co-Operative Bank had a new Chairman – John Murugu, who has previously worked at Treasury and CBK, is to take over as chairman on October 1, 2017, replacing Stanley Muchiri who is retiring after attaining the mandatory age of 70. 

The age of seventy as a cap for directors to serve on corporate boards has been paid lip service, until recently. But this year has seen prominent septuagenarians (70+ years) exit from financial firm boards including Peter Munga as Chairman at Equity Bank Group, Francis Muthaura as Chairman of Britam Holdings and now Mr. Muchiri who joined the board of Cooperative in 1986 and became Chairman in 2002. There could even be one more at Centum Investments with regard to top shareholder and director, Dr. Chris Kirubi who is also a former Chairman of the firm.

Dr. Kirubi was re-elected to the board in 2015, but the Centum AGM next week, where three other directors – Dr. Jim McFie, Henry Njoroge, Imtiaz Khan, all retire from the board, has an oddly-worded resolution – “Director above the age of 70 Years”  Pursuant to paragraph 2.5.1 of the Code of Corporate Governance Practices for Issuers of Securities to the Public 2015, to approve the continuation in office as a Director by Dr. Christopher John Kirubi, who has attained the age of seventy (70) years, until he next comes up for retirement by rotation.

Section 2.5.1 of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA)  Code of Corporate Governance Practices for Issuers of Securities states that it is desirable for board members to retire at the age of seventy years. Other changes in the code which are now been enforced more strictly include:

  • The Board shall rotate independent auditors every six to nine years (this is now  happening at some banks that have had the same auditors for more than a decade),
  • Auditors now narrate in the annual report to shareholders on key audit matters they encountered the company.
  • The status of Independent directors shall be checked annually, and they must not be associated by way of being an advisor to the company, or having a relationship – business or personal, with major shareholders or have cross-directorships with other directors.
  • A director of a listed company (except a corporate director) shall not hold such position in more than three public listed companies at any one time.
  • Independent directors can’t serve for more than nine years.
  • That a comprehensive independent legal audit is carried out at least once every two years by a legal professional in good standing with the Law Society of Kenya.
  • The Chairperson must be non-executive and not involved in day-to-day running of the business ( e.g. there wide expectations that Michael Joseph would play such a role as Kenya Airways chairman).
  • Publication of director resignations in the newspaper.
  • More engagement with institutional investors and media.