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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

 

Punish sly pipeline staff

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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Kenya Pipeline Company’s admission that its highly qualified and experienced employers are behind a racket in which billions of shillings may have been lost in fuel theft is shocking but not surprising. This is a manifestation of the endemic graft and insatiable greed that has infiltrated almost every segment of our society. Here are people who have no scruples about bending the rules and manipulating procedures or systems for personal gain.

This is not just an indictment of the professionalism of the engineers involved; the breach of the pipeline poses a serious public health hazard from environmental pollution. It is only depraved minds who do not value professionalism that could have abetted such a scam. But they are not the only thieving employees: The rot is widespread in the private and public sectors, non-governmental organisations, homes and small enterprises. The KPC management deserves kudos for owning up that they, indeed, have a problem on their hands that threatens the existence of this very firm. It is noteworthy, however, that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations was pivotal in the busting of the scam.

Such pilferage at work is not just criminal but is also anti-social. By volunteering such cogent information on the racket, KPC has, hopefully, now made a significant first step in the streamlining of its operations. Quite disappointing, however, is the apparent laxity in taking action. The siphoning site created by some cleverly devious Pipeline staff was discovered about four months ago and nearly a year since the project was commissioned.

As the pipeline parastatal moves to strengthen its internal and external monitoring and supervision to prevent more of such thefts, the culprits must be pursued and arraigned in court for this base and damning breach of trust.


Vetting of nominees by MPs now a sham

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The Constitution has vested powers on Parliament to vet and approve or reject individuals seeking top public offices. Consequently, Parliament enacted a law, Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act 2011, that entrenches the practice and, importantly, outlines the criteria for assessing and approving a candidate’s suitability for public office.

Underpinning this is the desire to empower the public, through their representatives, to make decisions on who occupies which office. And there is a background. Previously, all top government appointments were made singularly by an individual, the President, a practice that perpetuated bias, favouritism and inefficiency. The Constitution purposed to cure this malady by giving MPs authority to make decisions on senior government jobs and eliminate biases and eccentricities that obtained when the Head of State or ministers had absolute powers on the jobs.

The Constitution has provisions on the calibre of individuals required. Article 10 defines the national values and principles of governance while Chapter Six prescribes the desired attributes for holders of public offices. The vetting was intended to streamline public appointment and ensure merit, equity and diversity.

Since 2013, Parliament has executed this mandate with mixed results. Our concern is the continued bungling. Two recent cases odiously illustrate this. First, a few months ago, Parliament approved the appointment of Mwende Mwinzi, who has dual citizenship, as Kenya’s Ambassador to South Korea. Yet the Constitution decrees that appointees to public office must be solely Kenyan. Curiously, MPs ruled that she ought to first renounce her second citizenship, American, which she has refused.

Due to the row, the position is still vacant. Clearly, it was disingenuous for Parliament to approve the appointment of someone who did not qualify and then go on and make demands on her.

Secondly, this week, Parliament controversially approved the appointment of a nominee to the National Lands Commission (NLC), Ms Tiya Galgalo, formerly the Woman Rep for Isiolo, despite serious ethical questions raised about her tax records. But MPs were lobbied and marshalled to vote for amendment of the report by the Lands Committee, which had disqualified her, opening an avenue for her appointment. Here is a pure case of serving political interest rather than the common good. It is a shame that Parliament cannot stand up and do what is right.

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Looked at collectively, and with the benefit of hindsight, parliamentary vetting is becoming a sham and it is time to rethink its wisdom and practicality.

Such egregious practices undermine public confidence in Parliament and other institutions of governance.


Disappearing acts: Where did our old Kenya shilling notes go?

CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBOBy CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO
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The Business Daily reported on Tuesday: “It was business as usual for many banks and currency dealers Monday as the old …[Kenya shilling 1,000 currency notes] … ceased to be legal tender after 25 years in the market. A visit to six banks in Nairobi and several forex dealers showed that there was nothing out of the ordinary. Bank officials said there was no rush to beat the deadline, with only a small increase in the number of customers asking to convert their cash on the last day noticed.”

IRRITATION

The matter-of-fact tone was striking because these kinds of things usually end in near-civil war. There were, this being Kenya, the inevitable court cases about the legality of the currency note change and whether the Central Bank had broken the law by putting First President Jomo Kenyatta’s portrait on the notes.

Then silence.

For the middle class, the biggest irritation was that for a long time many parking lot machines at the malls didn’t take the new notes.

My favourite paragraph in the Business Daily story said, “The Central Bank of Kenya … also reached out to the Judiciary to ensure that any currency kept in the courts system as exhibits has been converted, after the necessary procedures”. That was great presence of my mind.

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I have seen currency changes in my homeland and around the world, and they can be extremely ugly and leave many people in hospital or even the grave. India tried one in 2016 and made a royal mess of it. Unlike Kenya, which did it over a four-month period, India tried to pull it off in 50 days. There were queues stretching beyond the hills. A year later, economists were claiming that the cock-up shaved a few percentage points off India’s growth.

FISTFIGHTS

With such a boring demonetisation, which didn’t yield photos of fistfights in queues, and widows who’d lost their money cursing government and Central Bank officials, the only interesting stories were on the grapevine.

We heard stories about how this currency change was not really about tackling money laundering, smoking out corrupt fortunes and destabilising terrorism financing but to fix politicians who had stacked billions of shillings in buried containers, warehouses, bank vaults, ceilings of houses upcountry and such unusual places.

You see, as soon as the first new notes came on the market, although Kenya still had four months to go, immediately, you couldn’t exchange the old notes in neighbouring countries like Uganda and Tanzania.

DUG UP CAVES

Nairobi, apparently, scared Uganda and Tanzania with images of trailers arriving with dump and fungus-infested Kenya shillings dug up from caves where crooks were hiding it, destabilising their currencies.

In those countries, especially Uganda, these stories sounded very familiar. You can’t sit with Ugandans in Kampala for an hour before stories of the alleged massive amounts of money outside the banking system come up.

Some of them swear there is as much money stashed away in darkened rooms and ceilings as in the banking system. Some of it is dirty but there are many people who want to hide their fortune from the taxman, and there is a widely held view that well-connected extortion rings scour bank accounts and then shake down the owners of the large ones. Lately, kidnap for ransom has also become a popular weapon in Uganda.

HIDDEN STASHES

The stories are incredible. Some claim that fumigators in Kampala today make more money airing and tending hidden currency than zapping bugs — because they charge a premium, which includes a mark-up for keeping their mouths shut. You will hear that you are likely to make more money renting your house in an upmarket suburb to a money hoarder than to human beings to live in.

When the periodic airing of the money arrives, it’s alleged that the owners go far upcountry and ferry workers who don’t know Kampala to take it out and sun it and brush off the dried mould. Some of them are driven the last few kilometres blindfolded. When their work is done, they are driven back to the village, and paid the kind of money they couldn’t dream of for their service — and, again, silence. There’s so much money, they claim, the owners can’t count it. They keep a tab on it by weighing it with large scales!

The hidden stashes, then, are actually impacting society, though in peculiar ways.

Anyway, here we are. I didn’t make the slightest effort to get the new currency note but, by Tuesday, there wasn’t an old one in my wallet or anywhere in sight. It was probably the experience of many people who didn’t have sacks of money buried in their backyard. How did it happen?

And, I think, for the first time this century, a deadline arrived in Kenya and passed without queues and demands for it to be extended for months. This time, we really have to give the devil his due.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the curator of the Wall of Great Africans and publisher of explainer site Roguechiefs.com. @cobbo3


Commuter trains plan to ease traffic on Thika road

JAMES KARIUKIBy JAMES KARIUKI
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New commuter trains are set to start operating on the Nairobi-Thika route in latest efforts to ease traffic on the highway, especially at peak hours.

State Department for Housing and Urban Development PS Charles Hinga said the recently procured commuter trains would make regular stopovers at newly constructed substations of Mwiki, Githurai and Ruiru every 30 minutes.

RAILWAY LINK

“We injected Sh360 million to construct the Githurai link between Thika road and the Githurai railway substation. With this mass transit system in place, we will be creating more business opportunities where our people will be able to visit market centres and head home with ease,” he said.

Speaking when he launched the first phase of the Sh500 million multi-storied Githurai Market, Mr Hinga said the fresh produce market and the railway link would create new business linkages to complement benefits accruing from the superhighway.

“We want the Nairobi-Mwiki-Githurai and Ruiru areas to enjoy 24-hour economies.

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“I welcome the installation of floodlights by Kiambu County government within Githurai that will see traders work in shifts,” he said.

Kiambu Deputy Governor James Nyoro said the county had allocated Sh300 million with the national government adding Sh200 million towards the construction of the market that sits on a 3.87-acre plot.

The fresh produce wholesale market sources food supplies from other centres while thousands of residents in the locality also shop in Githurai.

Other markets under construction are Ruiru and Kikuyu, which have also been connected to the commuter railway being implemented under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project.

Rapid urbanisation has witnessed the emergence of uncoordinated growth that has left many centres and towns around Nairobi crowded as local investors constructed haphazard structures for newcomers.

This has created new challenges on waste disposal, sewerage and drainage connections as well as unending congestion at bus stops and traffic on link roads due to a lack of mass transit services.


Zimbabwe's leader Mnangagwa begs for patience to fix ailing economy

AFPBy AFP
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President Emmerson Mnangagwa has acknowledged the economic hardships Zimbabweans are suffering and pleaded for patience to allow his government to fix the country’s rapidly deteriorating economy.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been badly suffering for two decades but the last 12 months have been the worst decline in 10 years, characterised by shortages of basic goods such as fuel and electricity.

Even when such goods are available, they are often unaffordable for most Zimbabweans.

RECORD INFLATION

Annual inflation neared 300 percent in August, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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The government has been introducing what economists have called “piecemeal” policies to raise revenue, fix currency distortions and increase cash liquidity.

But Mnangagwa was upbeat in an annual speech to parliament on Tuesday, saying that his government’s economic reforms “are beginning to bear fruit”.

“I am aware of the pain being experienced by the poor and the marginalised”, but “getting the economy working again will require time, patience, unity of purpose and perseverance”.

The local currency has fallen from parity against the American dollar to 16.5 Zimbabwean dollars (ZWL) since June, when the treasury introduced currency reforms in a bid to address the chronic monetary crisis.

The local unit briefly breached 20 against to the greenback last week before clawing back a little value.

“Last week’s events of exchange rate manipulation amounts to economic sabotage and should not be tolerated,” said Mnangagwa, referring the near crush of the currency which saw the central bank freeze bank accounts of a Zimbabwean company linked to global commodities trader Trafigura.

MOBILE MONEY

On Monday the central bank unexpectedly shut down the use of mobile phone banking for cash transactions, citing exorbitant commission fees.

Years of economic crisis have left the country short of bank notes and commercial banks have been rationing cash withdrawals to a maximum daily limit of 100 ZWL (US$10) per customer.

That limit has led many Zimbabweans to turn to electronic financial transactions as well as using mobile transfers to buy cash.

Mnangagwa said he was “fully aware of the challenges faced by the public in accessing cash, which has resulted in some unscrupulous traders selling cash in exchange for electronic money” and promised to fix the problem.

Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, said that a state-of-the-nation address “that does not address key issues facing the nation such as lack of electricity, water, fuel, non availability of cash, poor wages, human rights abuses, terror, abductions, illegitimacy and reforms is a waste of resources and an unprovoked insult”.

“This invites us all to act!” Chamisa said after his lawmakers walked out of parliament shortly before Mnangagwa stood up to deliver his speech.

A UN special rapporteur Clement Nyaletsossi Voule visited Zimbabwe last week and concluded that “there is a serious deterioration of the political, economic and social environment since August 2018”.

Mnangagwa won a July 30 election last year, taking over after 37 years of authoritarian rule under Zimbabwe’s founding president Robert Mugabe, who died in hospital last month.


MPs ignored House team’s word on NLC nominees

DAVID MWEREBy DAVID MWERE
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It has now emerged that MPs disregarded an advisory from Parliament’s legal department when they voted to approve all the nine individuals nominated to the National Land Commission (NLC).

The National Assembly Wednesday voted to approve the nominees without debating a report of the House Committee on Lands that had vetted them and rejected the candidature of former Isiolo County Woman MP Tiya Galgalo.

TAX COMPLIANCE

But Ms Galgalo’s sigh of relief came when Isiolo North MP Hassan Hulufo successfully moved an amendment to the report to expunge the part that had rejected her over tax compliance issues.

The action by the MPs means that the names of the nominees; Gershom Otachi (chairman), Esther Murugi, James Tuitoek, Gertrude Nguku, Reginald Okumu, Hubbie Al-Haji, Alister Mutugi, Kazungu Kambi, and Galgalo will now be sent to the president for appointment and subsequent swearing-in.

The Lands Committee chaired by Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai had rejected Ms Galgalo after Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) invalidated the tax compliance certificate she had presented during her vetting.

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However, a letter from KRA clarifying that she had complied with her tax obligations was sent to the National Assembly way after the committee had filed its report.

The legal department advised the MPs that the letter from KRA constituted new evidence and it was prudent that it be returned to the committee for clearance.

“First move a motion to extend the time of the committee so as to allow it consider the new matters without the threat of operation of law on deeming of approval,” the brief from the legal department reads.

The opinion sought to cushion the danger of having the individuals standing the benefit of being nominated without seeking the extension according to the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) Act.


Police allowed to hold terror suspect for seven days

PHILIP MUYANGABy PHILIP MUYANGA
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Police were on Wednesday allowed to hold a terror suspect for seven days to allow a multi-agency security team complete investigation.

Mombasa Chief Magistrate Edna Nyaloti directed that Fawaz Ahmed Hamdun, who is accused of recruiting youth to Al-Shabaab, be detained at Port Police Station.

The police had sought to have the suspect detained for 20 days but the court ruled that the State has resources to analyse data from mobile phones recovered from the suspect in less than the days they want.

Through prosecutor Eric Masila, police sought to have the suspect detained longer because he is yet to be interrogated by a security multi-agency team.

Mr Masila told the court that when Mr Hamdun was arrested, three mobile phones and Sim cards were seized from him and are yet to be analysed by cybercrime officers based in Nairobi.

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The prosecutor also argued the court that the right to liberty is not absolute and that the investigations being carried out are critical and allowed under the Constitution.

According to the investigation officer, Mr Hamdun was seized from his house and he willingly surrendered his mobile phones for investigation.

The officer told the court that the suspect was not summoned to any police station and they have not yet received any information extracted from the mobile phones confiscated.

Through lawyer Yusuf Aboubakar, the suspect told the court that he is entitled to bail in accordance to Article 49 of the Constitution.

Mr Aboubakar further said that the suspect was ready and willing to report to any police station for interrogation.

He further said that there must be compelling reasons adduced to warrant the denial of bail to the suspect while noting that there is no evidence by the prosecution that the suspect) is a flight risk.

“The prosecution wants sympathy and assistance, it wants to put you (court) in a position to violate the law in the name of assisting a police force that does not follow the law in their investigations,” argued Mr Aboubakar.

The case will be mention on October 8.


Helicopter bishop Thomas Wahome to testify in camera in theft case

JOSEPH WANGUIBy JOSEPH WANGUI
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An Othaya court has allowed televangelist Thomas Wahome of Helicopter Ministries to testify in camera in a case in which a chief is accused of stealing two pet dogs.

The court made the order after the cleric complained of intimidation by some villagers who had accompanied the chief, Paul Gachiri Wageni, to court during hearing of the case.

Mr Wageni is accused of stealing the preacher’s two dogs (Terrier breed) valued at Sh300,000 in December 2016.

The court heard that the preacher bought the dogs, a male and female, in December 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania when they were aged three months. He took them to his rural home in Othaya, Nyeri, where they were reported missing after two years.

 In his evidence in chief, the 39-year-old preacher said the dogs were under the care of his farm manager, Stephen Ndichu, who informed him that they had been stolen.

“I reported the matter to the area assistant chief Mr Paul Gachiri to address the matter during barazas as I suspected they might have been taken by one of the neighbours. I returned to Nairobi waiting any feedback from the assistant chief,” he said police in his statement.

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On November 3, 2018 the farm manager stated that he had sighted the missing dogs at the assistant chief’s homestead and the matter was reported at Othaya police station.

Together with the police, they proceeded to the sub-chief’s home where he positively identified the dogs.

But on his side the 55-year-old administrator, who is out on a bond of Sh200,000 after denying charges, said he bought the dogs from Mr Wahome’s mother, Ms Antonia Njambi, in the month of March 2013.

“After about two weeks since I bought them, the male puppy passed away and I remained with the female,” he said.

The hearing of the case continues.


Court stops motor vehicle leasing tender

SAM KIPLAGATBy SAM KIPLAGAT
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The government has been stopped from advertising the tender for leasing of motor vehicles from local assemblers, following a petition by CMC Motors Group Ltd.

In the application certified urgent, the company argued that Interior PS Karanja Kibicho has advertised the tender through restricted tendering, before the expiry of the 14 days required by the law.

Through lawyer Migos Ogamba, the company argued that the reasons for dismissal of their case by Public Procurement Administrative Review Board were unreasonable because the board failed to look into matters it was bound to consider.

He told Justice John Mativo that the company’s rights and legitimate expectation was breached by PS.

The court consequently, suspended the decision and orders issued by the board delivered last month, for 14 days. He said the evaluation committee should not accept, evaluate or award the said tender.

The company said that the tender was terminated on the ground that the prices quoted were higher than the market prices and that the Ministry was right in suing motor vehicle leasing Phase II precise, for purpose of comparison of prices.

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CMC Motors further said the board acted unreasonably in arriving at the decision as it did not direct itself properly in law.

Mr Ogamba said that the board failed to call to its attention that LOT 7 for heavy duty, utility passenger vehicle, and 4×4s, among others was not in motor vehicle leasing program Phase II but was introduced in the new Phase and as such there was obviously going to be a difference in total leasing price.

The company said there was no proper actuarial price matrix that took into account all parameters of the lease program, which issues the board was bound by the law to consider. The parameters included motor vehicle specifications, insurance, driver training service centres, vehicle replacements and out of contract prices.

Justice Mativo directed Mr Ogamba to serve the PS and the board and come back for directions on October 8.


Heartburn medicine found to contain cancer-linked chemical

ELIZABETH MERABBy ELIZABETH MERAB
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The government has urged the public to stop taking anti-acid Ranitidine, sold in Kenya as Zantac or Neotack, to relieve heartburn.

The Pharmacy and Poisons Board withdrew the anti-acid from the market after it was linked to cancer in the US.

Last week, the board issued a directive to pharmacies across the country to retrieve and quarantine all Ranitidine products sold in the Kenyan market. Some wholesalers have written to their clients to return all products purchased.

DRUG RECALL

“In order to safeguard the health of Kenyans, you are instructed to carry out a level 2 recall of all ranitidine products from the Kenan market.

“In addition, you are required to submit to the board the details of all the products that you have imported into the country in the last three years,” the board’s chief executive Dr Fred Siyoi said in a circular.

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On September 13, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had learned that some ranitidine medications, including those known by the brand name Zantac, contain low levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), an impurity that could cause cancer. NDMA is a possible cancer-causing chemical linked to liver damage.

This week, the drug companies Novartis (through its generic division, Sandoz) and Apotex announced that they were recalling all of their generic ranitidine products sold in the US.

These announcements came after a Connecticut-based online pharmacy informed the FDA that it had detected NDMA in multiple ranitidine products under certain test conditions.

The nitrosamine impurity known as N-nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen based on lab tests, and this isn’t the first time that it has been detected in a common medication.

CANCER RISK

Since last year, the FDA has been investigating NDMA and other impurities in blood pressure and heart failure medicines known as angiotensin receptor blockers or ARBs. Numerous recalls have been launched as the FDA found “unacceptable levels” of nitrosamines in several of those common drugs containing valsartan.

A study published last year in the medical journal BMJ found no “markedly increased short term overall risk of cancer” among users of the valsartan drugs contaminated with NDMA. Yet that study also noted that research into long-term cancer risk is needed, CNN reports.