A Japanese firm contracted by Kenya’s standards agency to inspect vehicle imports has been blacklisted from conducting radiation inspection due to shoddy work.

 IMPORTED cars at the port of Mombasa waiting for clearance

Japan Harbor Transportation Association (JHTA) in a notice dated August 27, 2015 cancelled the licences of Quality Inspection Services Inc Japan (QISJ) and another firm for poor inspection of radioactive substances in used vehicles.

Japan is grappling with sensitive radioactive materials following a major earthquake at Fukushima Daiichi reactors. This raises serious questions on the safety and quality of car imports into Kenya at a time when cancer cases are on the rise.

Health researchers say as radioactive material decays, or breaks down, the energy released into the environment has two ways of harming a body exposed to it. It can directly kill cells, or it can cause mutations to DNA. If those mutations are not repaired, the cell may turn cancerous.

QISJ is the sole company contracted by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) for pre-shipment inspections on all vehicles destined for Kenya.

Now, JHTA says QISJ and vehicle inspection firm Automotive Technologies Ltd did not perform pre-shipment measurements of radioactive substances in used vehicles properly.

The two companies failed to conduct appropriate operations, it said. JHTA identified inappropriate operations taken by the two firms through on-site inspection of each company. Exporters of used vehicles that had used the two inspection firms may be affected by the cancellation.

Harbour workers

“On May 25 and August 24, 2015, our committee investigated the actual inspected operation for radiation. The result of the investigation of these two foreign owned companies, Automotive Technologies Ltd and Quality Inspection Services Japan, has received the notice letter (Letter No. 23-123, dated of August 26, 2015) from the committee, that they are terminated as radiation surveyors since according to union standards, their actual inspectors are unqualified,” said the letter by the lobby’s Central Safety Committee Chairman Yasushi Tadome to association members on the move to blacklist the two firms.

The association sent the cancellation notice to Quality Inspection Services Japan Ltd (QISJ) President Kiyoaki Hatano based in Yokohama and Automotive Technologies Ltd President Nigel Grindall in Tokyo.

Radiation inspection is critical as Japan continues to grapple with effects of March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daichi power plant.

Since then, radiation measurement has been required for all used vehicles to be exported from Japan. The radiation measurement should be taken before vehicles are handled by harbour workers. That way, only vehicles that satisfy the standard radiation values should proceed to the export procedures.

To safeguard the health of workers, JHTA has been conducting on-site inspection of operations at each company and concluded that the two firms failed to carry out ‘appropriate operations’. Then JHTA decided to cancel the designation of the two companies. The cancellation was officially approved on September 4, 2015.

However, when contacted, Kebs Managing Director Charles Ongwae said they received the reports and the agency had launched investigations into the matter.

“This was brought to my attention yesterday (Friday). The document indicates that the cause of delisting is labour union issues,” Ongwae told Weekend Business. “Kebs is investigating the matter to understand better.”

QISJ representative in Kenya was not available for comment as his phone remained switched off yesterday.

The award of the pre-inspection tender was highly contested. The award of the Sh3 billion contract to QISJ was challenged at the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) by the losing entities but was dismissed on the basis that they did not have supporting documents.


Earlier, the standards body had awarded QISJ a three-year contract prompting uproar from other bidders who failed to clinch the deal, including Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (Jevic) and East African Automobile Services (EAAS).

The two raised their objections to the tender through the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board which halted the signing of the tender as the matter was determined. At the review board, the firms accused each other of forgery during the tendering process.

Jevic and EAAS stated that due diligence was never carried out by Kebs before it awarded the tender.

The firms were embroiled in a blame game over the importation of several cars which were found to be contaminated with radioactive elements, prompting the intervention of the Kenya Radiation Protection Board.

Kenya imports an average of 7,000 used vehicles monthly and industry players say awarding the inspection tender to a company that has interests in the importation business could create a monopolistic situation in Kenya’s second hand car importation business and conflict of interest.

In the previous awards, the tender to inspect second hand vehicles into the country from Japan, United Kingdom, Dubai, Singapore and South Africa was awarded to three companies. The fact that Kebs awarded the tender to only one company this year has raised queries about the fairness of the process.