The Kenya Copyright Board.

The future of Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), the bodies that collect and distribute creatives’ royalties, is on the balance after recommendations were suggested yesterday that they be scrapped.

During a Senate Committee meeting with relevant government agencies and stakeholders - on the creative economy – CMOs were scrutinized as issues of funds embezzlement and grand corruption dominated the meeting.

Among those present in the meeting was the Permanent Secretary for Culture Josephta Mukobe, the Principal Secretary, Broadcasting and Telecommunications Esther Koimett, the Kenya Copyright Board Executive Director (Kecobo) Edward Sigei, Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua, Kenya Film Commission CEO Timothy Owase and the Director, Permanent Presidential Music Commission (PPMC) Donald Otoyo, among others.    

Responding to questions, Sigei revealed how a forensic audit report carried on the three CMOs; Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), Performance Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) had detailed grave financial discrepancies in CMOs management. He said the Directorate of Criminal Investigation boss, George Kinoti, was closing on the alleged culprits noting that he expects some officials to be arrested and questioned before Friday.

“We have already issued a show-cause letter to the three CMOs as we are dissatisfied by their performance. The 21-day notice elapses on Friday,” Sigei told the committee.

He said the CMOs directors were illegally drawing sitting allowances that amounted to over Sh1 million a year while the members they represent haven’t received any royalties for almost two years.

According to the audit report, the cost per sitting for each board member had been placed at Sh7,500, yet some had been getting up to Sh45,000.

According to the report, the Kecobo boss alleged that the CMOs CEOs had colluded in settling a Sh67million matter awarded by courts to the CMOs members and created private accounts unknown to the CMOs.

“From the forensic report, over 4000 members registered under MCSK did not have Kenya Revenue Authority pins and payments were being done through unregistered numbers,” he told the committee.      

Led by its chairman Johnson Sakaja, the Standing Committee on Labour and Social Welfare had invited the stakeholders following an outcry from artistes, prompted by questions on how the Sh100 million stimulus package awarded by the government to creatives last year was distributed.

“What we are hearing here are serious matters. Does it mean CMO members would wish to have CMOs get disburdened and have their issues get handled by the government?” Senator Sakaja posed.

“That is what we want. It is what we are saying,” responded singer Roy Smith Mwita aka Rufftone, who was part of the artistes representing the creative society during the meeting.

His sentiments were backed by fellow creatives Hubert Nakitare aka Nonin, Saul Esikuri aka Shizo, Irene Kariuki, and Bernard Kioko, the Secretary-General Creative Society of Kenya. They made presentations blaming the CMOs and relevant government bodies for the sorry state facing the Kenyan creative industry.

“The problem we are having on these issue is that we have been dealing with them for the past 15 years and nothing seems to change,” remarked Kioko.

“We were not involved in the Sh100 million stimulus allocation. However, we have been assisting artistes and have been heavily involved in the making of the new Kenya Film Act, which we are calling for its quick passing and implementation,” Ezekiel Mutua said.

PS Josephta Mukobe told the committee that the Sh100 million had been allocated to the Department of Culture, PPMC, KFC, Kenya Cultural Centre, and National Museums. She explained how each shared its budget to members.