Politics

Francis Meja: the village boy who breathed life into NTSA

But then he told himself that leadership was all about showing direction where there was confusion. “That is when I proposed the formation a new body that was independent of KRA and the Ministry of Transport.”

Francis Meja hopes to bring his vast experience in the public and corporate sectors to run affairs in Kajiado County, should he be elected governor in 2022. Not only that, he also banking on a proven track record of performance, to take the county to the next level.

He made a name for himself nationally, during his two-term stint as Director General of National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), which ended in early 2020. NTSA had, during its existence, become synonymous with Meja, who hails from Kibiko in Kajiado West. After all, he was instrumental in the formation of the transport body.

Meja told Kajiado Star, in his Kibiko home, that he attended Oloshoibor Primary School and later Ololaiser High School, for both his ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels. From there he went to university in India, where he studied economics, finishing his course in 1993.

“The following year, I joined Housing Finance Corporation of Kenya (HFCK) as a management trainee, where I rose through the ranks to become the manager in charge of the entire coast region,” explains Meja.

He was then head hunted by Equity Bank, then struggling to gain a foothold in the country’s banking sector. Equity was looking for an experienced banker to help the institution make inroads in Maa country. “You see, at the beginning, Equity Bank was perceived as a Kikuyu only bank, but then they needed to spread their wings and open branches in other parts of the country,” he recalls.

Meja fit the bill and that is how he became the manager of the newly established Equity Bank branch in Narok, which was also supposed to serve Transmara. “It was tough in the beginning,” he says. “What with senior politicians in the area spreading hurtful propaganda against the institution. But we were determined to make it work.”

Soon, their hard work paid off. “We started from zero deposits, but in four years, we had deposits totalling up to sh1.2 billion. During the same time, we grew our loan portfolio from zero to sh800 million,” explained Meja, adding that by the time he was leaving the branch in Narok, was making annual profits of sh100 million.

With time, Meja felt that he was ready for bigger challenges and that is how, in 2010, he applied and got the job of Registrar of Motor Vehicles, which by then was a government body under the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

At the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Meja walked into a storm that had been slowly building over the years. “There was a tussle between KRA and the Ministry of Transport over who controlled the body. For a long time, I could not access my office, due to the stalemate,” he says, adding that such wrangles made him wish to go back to the banking industry, where systems were in place and things were running efficiently.

But then he told himself that leadership was all about showing direction where there was confusion. “That is when I proposed the formation a new body that was independent of KRA and the Ministry of Transport,” he explains. “And that was how NTSA was created.”

For this to happen, a new law had to be created, The NTSA Act 33 of 2012, that was passed by both the cabinet and parliament.

By creating NTSA, Meja somehow found himself without a job, as the new law stipulated that the director general must be recruited competitively. He subjected himself to the interview process, passed and became the first director general of NTSA.

Once in office, Meja embarked on the task of modernising operations at the new institution. “With the support of World Bank, we fully automated our services, whereby all services would be made available online under the Transport Integrated Management Systems (TIMS). That is how services like the renewal of driving licences and TLB licences can be made online,” explains Meja.

By the time Meja left NTSA, revenue had grown from sh2 billion to Sh7 billion annually.

Next: Meja’s vision for Kajiado County

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