The dispute between Governor Hassan Ali Joho’s family and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has escalated. The disagreement over closure of two Container Freight Stations (CFS) owned by his relatives in Mombasa saw KRA and KFS trade new accusations yesterday. KRA and CFS accused each other of withholding uncontested cargo at the stations. KRA claimed CFS has refused to allow importers and clearing agents to release uncontested cargo, but CFS claimed KRA has not removed its seals on containers and gates to allow such removals.
“We have today received information to the effect that CFS operators have neglected to facilitate release of cargo to owners. Information available indicates that, besides failing to avail staff who could facilitate release, the CFS exit gates have been barricaded to prevent access.
“The Commissioner of Customs and Border Control has this afternoon written to CFS operators, instructing them to provide access and facilitate cargo removal. It is our wish to facilitate expedited cargo removal in order to avoid business disruption,” said Commissioner General John Njiraini in a statement.
As KRA released a statement in Nairobi justifying the shut down of Autoports Container Freight Station and Portside Freight Terminal, the Joho family also released documents indicating the two stations have complied with requirements set by the Customs Services Department since August and October last year when the State agency asked them to hold a total of 25 containers whose contents had been correctly declared.
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KRA said in a statement that the closure of the two stations was lawful and based on new rules intended to streamline operations of CFS, but the umbrella body for freight stations accused the tax collector of orchestrating moves to mask its failures and inability to verify and scan goods arriving at the port, shifting blame to freight stations.
According to lawyers, Senior Counsel Paul Buti and Dennis Mosota for AutoPort and PortSide, the affected companies, “The actions of KRA are so grave in nature and drastic in consequence. The rules cited are just a lame excuse to give legal semblance to otherwise patently illegal and unconstitutional acts.”
Buti said that, “as a matter of fact, the rules do not at any rate supersede constitutional requirements of Fair Administrative Action as well as all derivatives of natural justice. The derivatives being adequate notice, reasons for decisions and the right to be heard.
KRA’s actions are an affront of a fundamental principle of law known as “Audi alteram partem” – the duty to give persons affected by a decision a reasonable opportunity to present their case.
And CFS Chief Executive Daniel Nzeki accused KRA of misleading the nation and disregarding an ongoing court case, in which CFS has challenged KRA’s and Kenya Ports Authority’s new regulation regarding nomination of cargo to freight stations, among other new rules.