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Kickbacks queries for KeRRA tenders chief

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Kickbacks queries for KeRRA tenders chief


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Margaret Wanja Muthui is a deputy director at the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA). ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG

Ms Margaret Wanja Muthui first thrust into the limelight in 2019 when she successfully petitioned the court to reverse her deployment from her plum job at a roads agency.

Then, Ms Muthui argued that she had risen over the years to become the senior procurement officer at Kenya Rural Roads Agency (KeRRA) when she was suddenly transferred to the office of Performance Management and Coordination under the Presidency.

According to Ms Muthui, she was being moved to an office where she had no expertise and the main reason for her removal was after she questioned a tender, which she felt had been overpriced by Sh1 billion.

She argued that in her opinion, questioning the award caused a lot of problems after which she received communication from the PS Ministry of Transport asking her to provide a full report on the tender and options that would cure the anomalies and allow the tender to proceed.

Ms Muthui, who was employed by KeRRA as a procurement officer in October 2009, stated how she had worked diligently and subsequently promoted in December 2011.

All was well until February 2017 when she got a letter deploying her to the Performance Management and Coordination under the Presidency.

She said barely two weeks later, her employer received the directive from the Ministry redeploying her under the guise that she was an expert on low volume seal roads contracts.

Ms Muthui, however, said the deployment letter did not indicate the range of her duties at the new office yet she had no idea of the function of her purported deployment.

In a judgment in February 2019, Justice Hellen Wasilwa halted her transfer, saying the Ministry of Transport had no business directing KeRRA to deploy her to the ministry.

She maintained that her deployment was nothing short of a witchhunt by the powers that be as she is being victimised for doing her duties as set out in her appointment letter.

“Indeed the decision was illogical because the employer of the Petitioner is the 2nd Respondent (KeRRA) and not the 1st Respondent (Ministry),” the judge said.

Second transfer

Ms Muthui was back in court early this year after she was transferred for the second time and Employment and Labour Relations Judge Maureen Onyango, suspended the decision, pending the determination of her case.

In the new case, Ms Muthui said she was being redeployed for raising questions over multibillion-shilling roads construction tenders.

She was probably not aware that all these years of fighting to remain at KeRRA would have challenges.

What has now emerged is that she, the deputy director at the roads agency, could have been a beneficiary of kickbacks from roads tenders.

In a scandal unearthed by the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), Ms Muthui is accused of acquiring multimillion-shilling properties in a span of three years, in what has been termed as proceeds of crime.

Apart from fighting to remain at KeRRA, Ms Muthui now has to fight a petition by the ARA seeking to forfeit the property, including 11 apartments, which she allegedly acquired for Sh264 million in cash when the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) withdrew the old Sh1,000 banknote in a bid to tackle illicit financial flows.

Proxies

In the petition certified as urgent, the State agency says Ms Muthui bought 11 apartments in Kileleshwa for Sh264 million in cash between July and September 24, 2019. She acquired another 12 units in a Ruaka flat in June 2019 for Sh15 million.

The agency says Ms Muthui allegedly purchased the apartments herself or through proxies and a company whose directors were mostly her relatives or proxies during the demonitisation period. Documents filed in court showed that she had earlier in March 2019 acquired a flat of 12 units in Ruaka for Sh15 million.

Ms Muthui later acquired a house in Nairobi and land in Dagoretti and registered them in the names of other people.

On Tuesday, Justice James Wakiaga allowed the freezing of Sh94 million held in several accounts and registered under different people, pending the determination of the petition.

Justice Wakiaga also ordered the chief lands registrar to register caveats against each of the Sh374.5 million apartments and home in a move aimed at stopping their transfer or sale.

The judge also ordered a preservation of rental income from all the apartments and the houses.

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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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