APHRC-Kenya which Ezeh describes as the CSR extension of the company, was registered in 2003, two years after APHRC’s own registration in Kenya.
“APHRC-Kenya is a very small operation that responds when we see needs. Sometimes we are in the community and somebody we’ve been monitoring from birth has graduated with 380 marks in the primary school but has nobody to take him to secondary school. We have been able to find ways through APHRC-Kenya to support them to go to school.”
Premier auditors Ernest and Young, KPMG and Deloitte, APHRC’s Director of Operations Joseph Wangombe said, had audited their books over their 15 years of incorporation in Kenya and had they been cooking their books as it were, he insisted, they couldn’t have kept it hidden that long.
“These are top firms. I don’t know how we’d make them give a false report and additionally we have to present returns to the Internal Revenue Service in the US and besides the statutory audit, our funders who have been mentioned as some of the top funders, will commission other audits. Like last year I would say about 50 percent of our operations were audited a second time.”
The Executive Director of APHRC which was awarded a UN Population Award last year for its work in health and policy research with the aim of informing policy, also filed the, “unfair labour practices favouring foreigners,” accusation under the misunderstanding category by seeking to make the point that they were a Pan-African organisation who sought the best talent globally, Kenya included, and where certain expertise was required, couldn’t be expected to constrain itself only to in-country recruitment.
“In the type of business we’re in which looks for the top minds to create knowledge, innovation and things like that you need the best you can find anywhere in the world and you have to be able to compete for those talents. If you’re looking for an epidemiologist we look all over to get the best people. If you’re looking for a driver you don’t have to bring them from Zambia to come and be a driver here.”
Any differences in pay, Ezeh said, could be explained by whether a position was marked for ‘international’ vs ‘local’ recruitment depending on the expertise required.
That said, he was quick to add, qualified Kenyans like all other nationalities were welcomed to compete for the former and where successful, the only difference in benefits between themselves and their foreign counterparts was that they didn’t get economy class tickets every few years to travel home.
“Certain positions are classified as, positions not people,” Ezeh sought to make clear, “as nationally recruited which means that we only look locally to fill those positions and these other ones we look globally to fill those positions.”
Even so, he said, only 19 of APHRC’s 125 employees were non-Kenyans and of the 19 only two were recruited from outside the continent.
As for APHRC-Kenya, Ezeh said, none of its employees were foreign and so the NGO Co-ordination Board’s claim that they had employed an expatriate, “without obtaining from the Board the requisite work permit recommendation,” he said, was unfounded.
All of this he said, was explained to the NGO Co-ordination Board whose Executive Director Fazul Mahamed wrote to him on December 11 last year with the news: “With this communication, we are confirming that you have been cleared of all non-compliance issues except the one mentioned above i.e. Cessation of your registration under the Companies Act. Trusting that this clearance will be appreciated by all your stakeholders.”
It therefore came as a surprise, Ezeh and Wangombe said, to hear that the same Board thereafter, in April, recommended that they be investigated for money laundering.
“How can you write somebody on December 11 clearing them of all, of all non-compliance issues except the fact that you have two registrations and then you come out five months later and say actually they have regulatory mischief, maybe somebody is sleeping on the job,” Ezeh said.
He was not comfortable commenting on the multi-agency investigation into the Kinisu family’s dealings with the National Youth Service but he did seek to make clear that the Chairman was the non-executive head of a board and had nothing to do with the day to day running of APHRC or APHRC-Kenya.
“He joined our board in 2013 and in 2015 he was elected by his fellow board members to be the Chair of the board. He is not paid, it’s a volunteer service. He doesn’t have an office here; he doesn’t come in here unless there is a board meeting or unless there is any meeting that requires him to be here.”
Non-executive or not, this was how the NGO Co-ordination Board saw it in its letter inviting the NIS to investigate APHRC. “In the course of our investigations we noted that Mr. Philip Kinisu, the Chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is also the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. It is my considered opinion that this matter is extremely sensitive and of a high magnitude given his current position as the chair of the anti graft body.”
And should NIS accept or already have accepted said invitation, Ezeh said their books were open.