Cargo agents beat hasty retreat in license fight with KRA

Kifwa Chairman William Ojonyo.

Cargo clearing agents have beaten a retreat in a battle with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) over renewal of their licences.

The heated fight that had spilled into the courtrooms has finally been put to rest as the Kenya International Freight and Warehouse Association (Kifwa), the umbrella body that represents the agents, announced on Friday that it was withdrawing all cases it had filed against the taxman.

“We have withdrawn all matters in court against KRA. We cannot solve everything through the court and neither can we be in court forever,” said Kifwa Chairman William Ojonyo in a statement.

“We can never run away from KRA. We can never run away from customs. The only way forward is through dialogue,” he added.

The cargo agents in February announced a go-slow followed by an all-out strike that stalled operations in major entry ports. That was before KRA intervened and called them for a dialogue.

Personal information

The agents were accusing the tax agency of subjecting them to a torturous vetting process before issuing them with this year’s licences.

They argued that KRA was asking them to disclose personal information about their business operations and clients, a move they claimed was meant to lock some of them out of business.

KRA on the other hand insisted that the vetting had to be done because it was intended to curb rampant corruption at the port and forestall drug trafficking.

“Given the importance of clearing and forwarding services in safeguarding national security and public revenue, it is imperative that persons entrusted with this role exhibit the highest standards of ethical and business conduct. The vetting process to evaluate applicant suitability is meant to achieve this objective prior to the renewal of licences,” said KRA Commissioner General John Njiraini.

Previous talks fell through and the agents, who help the taxman collect an estimated Sh3 billion every month, decided to go to court in May this year.

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