The High Court has dismissed a case in which Wells Fargo had sued the Mombasa County Government for impounding its vehicles for non-payment of branding levy.
Justice Erick Ogola declared the county government had powers to arrest and prosecute the drivers of Wells Fargo security firm for advertising the company without the county’s authority. Wells Fargo claimed the county did not give notice.
“It is trite law that ignorance of the law is no defence. The petitioner was aware that the County Finance Act required them to pay branding fees,” said Justice Ogola.
He added that petitioners did raise objections when the county government conducted public consultative meetings before the law was enacted. Wells Fargo manager Lawrence Munyi claimed the company’s constitutional right to fair administrative action had been infringed upon.
He petitioned the court to release the vehicles in question on grounds that the county government impounded them illegally.
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Munyi claimed the by-law imposed directing a levy on the branded company vehicles to be paid was unconstitutional and asked the court to declare it illegal.
However the county government official Ibrahim Basafa insisted the county government has the powers to collect the levy for any branded vehicle which is operating in the county.
“In doing this the county government was fulfilling the provision of the County Government Act which gives the county powers to collect levies for the running of its operations,” said Basafa.
He said since the petitioner failed to pay the levy as was required by the law, the county officers had a right to impound the vehicles and have the drivers of the vehicles prosecuted.
Justice Ogola in his finding said that the constitution empowers the county government to impose charges for services that they provide.
He said the county governments must be encouraged and not restrained to deliver on their devolved functions as long as they followed the constitution.