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NIS hides details of Sh1 billion Land ministry tech deal

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NIS hides details of Sh1 billion Land ministry tech deal


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Lands principal secretary Nicholas Muraguri. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu says the spy agency failed to provide details of its role in the development of the digital land information management system.
  • NIS budgetary spending is not open to public scrutiny.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) has denied the Auditor-General details of Sh1 billion mystery payments from the Land ministry for an electronic land system that President Uhuru Kenyatta launched in April.

Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu says the spy agency failed to provide details of its role in the development of the digital land information management system (LIMS) aimed to bring efficiency and transparency to the land sector in the country.

The new system, which marks the end of manual land transactions in Nairobi, was earlier said to have been developed by a team of Kenyan techies over three years and is designed to enhance the security of land records, speed up land transactions and curb fraud.

Ms Gathungu said the NIS also failed to confirm that it received Sh1,012,370,000 from the Ministry of Land for the development of the digital registry.

“However, confirmation from the beneficiary institution as of June 30, 2020, was not attached as an appendix to the financial statements contrary to the Public Sector Accounting Standards Board’s requirement contained in the revised reporting template dated June 30, 2018, that requires duly signed confirmations to be obtained from the beneficiary institutions,” Ms Gathungu said.

“No explanation has been provided for the omission,” she added.

NIS budgetary spending is not open to public scrutiny.

Around two-thirds of Kenya’s land is customarily owned by communities without a formal title, making it easy for corrupt individuals to sell or lease it without the communities’ knowledge.

The government argues that digitising registration documents through LIMS will help prevent such appropriations by sealing loopholes that allow duplicate titles to be created, which are then used to transfer land without the rightful owner’s knowledge.

Land Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri has since defended the engagement of NIS as part of the techies, arguing that the spy team’s role was informed by “the security nature of documents involved.”

Ms Gathungu said it was not clear why NIS was engaged to undertake a similar exercise when the ministry had adopted LIMS and had already digitised 14 land registries for Sh700 million up to the 2017/2018 financial year.

“Consequently the propriety of the money transferred and whether the Ministry of Land and Physical Planning obtained value for money in the transfer of Sh1,012,370,000 for the year ending June 30, 2020, could not be confirmed,” Ms Gathungu said in an audit of the Land ministry for the year to June 2020 tabled in Parliament last week.

Land reforms

Last month, Parliament questioned the payment of Sh73 million to the NIS and put Dr Muraguri to task to explain why the spy agency was tapped to develop the LIMS.

The National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) demanded to know why the Land ministry, which received Sh73 million from the Ministry of ICT for the development of LIMS, wired the cash to NIS.

The Opiyo Wandayi-led committee was told that the ICT ministry credited the amount to the Land ministry’s deposit account two days before the close of the financial year ending June 2019.

The cash was later paid to the NIS on August 2, 2019, for the digitisation of land registries.

The MPs questioned why the money was not credited directly to NIS accounts by the State Department of ICT.

Kenya is amid land reforms that include moving decades-old records online, making it possible for people to register and verify titles on the internet.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale sought to know whether the new electronic land management system is foolproof.

“Yes we can guarantee the security of land documents now but we are checking what paperwork supports the ownership,” Dr Muraguri said assuring property owners whose documents are already listed that “your land is safe.”



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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.



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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.



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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.



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