NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 17- Detectives were on Saturday still camping inside and outside the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) headquarters, hours after they raided the premise.
Four employees from the ICT Department were being held at the facility Saturday, as detectives acting on a court order to retrieve information from servers.
Six lawyers led by Sam Nyaberi protested the officials’ continued detention saying they’re not part of a legal suit that has been ongoing.
“Our clients are not part of the ongoing case, why are they still being held here,” lawyer Nyaberi paused, during an interview with journalists. “We are after the release of our clients who have been detained since yesterday. We are yet to see them or make any communication with them, yet they are not part of the constitutional petition or the application that has been done by the Attorney General.”
“The High Court order was issued earlier than the Magistrate’s order. By dint of the law, the High Court order ranks superior to that of the Magistrate’s court,” the agency said in a statement.
The Agency had earlier moved to court to protest a directive by the government to hold fresh elections, as part of sweeping reforms proposed in a new law passed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in December 2020.
Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture gazetted the new tea regulations that will govern the tea sector in the country.
One of the regulations stipulates that all tea produced in Kenya should be sold through the auction process and the licensed tea auction organizers to establish electronic trading platform.
Consequently, the regulations recommend that the tea farmers who market the produce through the Kenya Tea Development Agency to be paid 50 per cent of the delivery monthly, with the rest paid as bonus annually.
Early this year, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the government will not allow cartels and unscrupulous players in the tea sector to derail implementation of new regulations.
“We cannot continue derailing the implementation of the new regulations as farmers are eagerly waiting to get maximum benefits of the new laws. Those fighting the regulations are the people who exploit farmers and live a better life when farmers languish in poverty,” he said during a farmer’s engagement meeting in Muranga County, on January 22.
In March this year, President Kenyatta directed Munya to oversee a probe into the giant agency, in directives contained in Executive Order 2 of 2021.
He also directed Attorney General Kihara Kariuki “to conduct an inquiry into the alleged statutory and regulatory compliance breaches allegedly committed by KTDA and its directors.”
The Executive Order No. 3 of 2021 on the Revitalization of the Tea Sub-Sector directed the Attorney General to conduct an inquiry into allegations of statutory and regulatory breaches committed by KTDA among other instructions.
The President pointed out that setting of tea prices in Kenya remains an opaque and exclusionary process that is sharply dissimilar from the process in other comparative jurisdictions, KTDA’s network of subsidiaries, which includes offshore subsidiaries, are locked in inherent conflicts of interest and are also misaligned with the interest of tea farmers and that KTDA’s web of business has made its Management lose focus on KTDA’s core business, “resulting in the need to address and reconsider the future of underperforming and non-core business.”
Further, the President raised concerns over on how the agency has conducted its business over the years, saying in some instances, “acted contrary to applicable Kenyan laws, including the Companies Act; as well as acting against the interests of small-holder farmers despite them being its core constituency.”
The President also pointed out that there have been “credible allegations raised regarding potential Price and Auction Manipulation, Abuse of Dominance, Insider Trading, Wastefulness and Breach of Director’s Fiduciary Duties, and other alleged malfeasances by or within KTDA.”
As a result, he directed the Attorney General to, “to conduct an inquiry into the alleged statutory and regulatory compliance breaches allegedly committed by KTDA and/or its Directors; including potential Price and Auction Manipulation, Abuse of Dominance, Insider Trading, Wastefulness and Breach of Director’s Fiduciary Duties, and other alleged malfeasances by or within KTDA.”
The agency moved to court to challenge the proposals by the President.