Tea farmers demand forensic audit of financial reports

Kiru Tea Factory members in a tour of the plant, April 2021. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Kiru Tea Factory in Murang’a County has for the first time in four years held a peaceful annual general meeting (AGM), with the farmers rejecting a report on the financials of the facility

The farmers rejected the financial report, saying it was prepared by the board they didn’t trust. The factory had previously witnessed leadership wrangles in the run-up to the State powered reforms.

Groups allied to lawyer Chege Kirundi and former factory chairman Stephen Githiga had been clashing at the last four AGMs, came to a close with the former taking charge under elections favouring the Tea Act, 2020 and Tea Sector Regulations, 2020.

Kirundi presided over an AGM last weekend with fewer policemen as compared to those conducted between 2017 and 2020 that were characterised by chaos and shouting matches between supporters allied to two groups.

Friday’s meeting took place after an attempt to place a hurdle by the rival group flopped before High Court Judge Kanyi Kimondo on Thursday. During the meeting, shareholders demanded an audit of the report prepared by the board led by Githiga.

“The wrangles started in 2017 after we demanded a forensic audit into the performance of the unit under the Kenya Tea Development Agency in the past 10 years,” Kirundi told shareholders.

Kirundi said the new board had embarked on the repair of the tea processing machinery. “My team is determined to restore the financial status of Kiru Tea Factory which was badly hit by the wrangling in the last five years,” said Kirundi.

Richard Mwangi from Kiria-ini electoral zone said tea growers wanted an audit to establish the status of the factories before they relook at the financials.

“In the past four years, there has been leadership wrangles and it’s the wish of the farmers to have the financial statement subjected to an audit before we declare our stand,” he said.

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