President Uhuru Kenyatta [Photo: Courtesy]

It might not have been the ultimate windfall that the Kenyan entertainment industry was anticipating, but what a relief. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s April 6 announcement - that the Government would be releasing monthly cash to musicians was a welcome move, one that, ironically now, is being threatened by hurdles between CMOs and their regulator, the Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo).

A tendering process that was collectively issued by the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp), Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRiSK) and Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), and that was being overseen by Kecobo, is now mired in problems after the procurement deal was concluded in February, this year.

The matter over the lucrative tender- initially valued at Sh200 million - that was to see the winner supply National Rights Registry, Licensing Module, a media monitoring module and a distribution model is now being investigated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) office.

Through its representative, Tenacle Limited, the firm that claims to have emerged top bidder, now says Kecobo proceeded to announce “that there is an ICT system ‘RYZIKIMUSIC’ and that artists should register onto the system.

According to Tenacle Limited, the system is being offered by Liberty Africa Limited, one of the bidders for the tender. Minutes raised at the procurement committees that recommended that Tenacle Limited be awarded the tender show that Liberty Africa was the second-highest bidder with Mziki Track Ltd and Techsavanna Co Ltd coming third and fourth, respectively.

Throughout the week, the issue has created a good fodder for musicians who have been debating over the issue on social media forums – following the leaked documents that are now doing rounds in creatives’ WhatsApp groups and other digital spaces.

On Tuesday this week some of the committee members representing the CMOs were summoned to the DCI office where they were interrogated over the procurement process. More CMOs officers as well as those from Kecobo - were also summoned on Wednesday by the DCI over the same, Pulse can confirm.

President Uhuru Kenyatta [Photo: Courtesy]

Speaking to Pulse on phone, the MCSK chairman Japheth Kassanga said he was aware of the developing issue. He alluded that ‘some hidden forces’ were behind the procurement differences between CMOs and Kecobo.

“First of all, the directors of the CMOs were required to send representatives to the procurement process so I personally did not participate in that. However, there is an issue and some of us have been threatened not to talk about the issue,” the veteran gospel musician and pioneer music producer told Pulse adding that he would like to remain as transparent in his role as required by law.

“A top representative of Kecobo said the (procurement) process had not been transparent and sort of got the committee dismantled before everything seemingly got moved into his office.

We saw the Riziki Music link and what I think is that things went off after the president was meant to think that the National Rights Registry was ready for operation yet this has not yet been confirmed,” he remarked, adding that MCSK has been forced to distribute royalties to its members through the normal system. The society distributed Sh34 million, for the period between January 1 and March 31, 2020 last week.

Read Also:Why Uhuru payout to artistes is not enough to fix crippled sector

Sentiments from the PRiSK chairman Ephantus Wahome paint a picture of a disjointed front by the CMOs top organ on the issue. According to Wahome, at some point during the evaluation process, it was noted that some members had vested interests on the bidding process. According to him, this was the genesis of the differences between the eight committee members.

“After they finished the evaluation, we had two other meetings that involved the CMOs’ chairs. I personally chaired the last meeting where it was stated that we needed to re-look into the matter,” says Wahome.

“As a board (PRISK), we had issues. We got information that Tenacle Ltd, who had emerged top, had been working with one of the other CMOs and that even some of the referees used were from the same. Frankly, as a collective board, we ended the meeting unceremoniously and let over everything to the oversight body, Kecobo, to decide.”

Edward Sigei, the Kecobo CEO does mince his words as he weighs into the issue.

“The first thing you should know is that the minutes doing rounds (on the committee) were leaked. What no one is telling you is that the mandate of the committee was extended after that and more decisions arrived at by CMOs. Our role as Kecobo is to look at these outcomes after all the evaluation processes and make our recommendations on how to go forward. We have been trying to manage the process and so far everything is moving forward. We should be making an official statement on all this by Wednesday next week,” Sigei articulates.

“RYZIKIMUSIC is not a company. It is a platform consisting of the four systems; National Rights Registry, Licensing Module, a Media Monitoring Module and a Distribution Model. This is only the brand name for the system. It is a sub-domain under Kecobo that they (CMOs) are now co-joined in making payments and we are doing so through the generation of a paybill number,” he elaborates.

Sigei is quick to note that some players are not keen to see the full implementation of the new automated ICT system as “they feel that they are no longer important”.

“During their (CMOs) meeting, two of the three were in disagreement but after it was all said and done, we are in agreement that the person who has been given the job has what it takes to deliver; from company reputation, to security and experience. I wish I would give you the name, but it would be premature to do so now. Let’s wait for next week,” he adds.

President Uhuru Kenyatta [Photo: Courtesy]

Questioned on whether the distribution of the artistes' cash announced by the president was being done from his office, Sigei notes that this being worked from the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage.

Two Kecobo board directors admit they are aware of the perceived procurement hitch but only referred us back to Sigei for official comment.

Read Also:Artistes change tack as effects of pandemic jolt the music industry

This musical dance, if not well handled, could derail the president’s effort to align the operations within Kenya’s creative sector. This is one area he has in the recent past had a keen eye on.

“The ministry of ICT in collaboration with Kenya Copyright Board has established a framework I asked them to in January,” the president stated in a press statement this month.

“Starting this month, all our local artists will be earning a total of Sh200 million per month that will be paid to musicians. This will translate to over Sh2 billion going into the pockets of our young artistes (annually).

“I also direct the Ministry of Sports to avail additional support of Sh100 million from the sports fund to our artists so they can continue to entertain their fellow brothers and sisters through TV, Radio, and the Internet,” the president added, in a move that generated a lot of debate.

This came shortly after he overhauled the structure in which musicians would receive royalties directing them to register a new, centralised National Rights Registry - in his January directive.