Property firm denies bribing MPs in pollution probe

Pawan Gehlot, General Manager - Operations, London Distillers (K) Limited, appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Environment at the County hall, mini chambers, Nairobi on March 4, 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Parliament now wants London Distillers Kenya Limited (LDK) that claimed members were allocated houses for free by a real estate firm as bribe over pollution probe, to produce evidence.

In three letters addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai, Erdemann Property Limited (EPL) has accused LDK of using machinations to try and frustrate the work of the Committee on Implementation chaired by Richard ole Kenta.

Narok North MP Kenta accused LDK of allegedly attempting to blackmail the committee. "The distiller should furnish this committee with names of members who allegedly received the houses from EPL," he said.

The real estate firm has dragged the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), into the matter claiming it has allowed LDK to continue operating without meeting measures stipulated in the Air and Water Quality Regulations.

EPL has offered to allow access to their sales records to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

“EPL has records of all house purchases and we categorically say no member of the select Committee of Implementation has acquired a house from EPL,” read the letter to Sialai and copied to Kenta, Environment and Forestry Principal Secretary.

Two weeks ago, the alcohol manufacturer wrote to the Speaker claiming that several members of the committee had been allocated free houses or at subsidised rate through proxies, to influence the report.

“The unrestrained attacks on the committee and demand for formation of a new committee is a tactical act by the LDK for new legal proceeding intended to frustrate finalisation of this long outstanding matter,” read one of the letters by EPL Managing Director Zeyun Yang.

This follows a probe by the committee on LDK’s environmental pollution through releasing toxic fumes and dumping solid effluent in Athi River.

In 2018, EPL and about 3,000 home buyers petitioned the National Assembly to investigate the impact of LDK’s activities on the environment, with the distiller receiving support from Nema.

The real estate firm has accused Nema of being part of the problem by sending a report to Parliament showing LDK’s compliance with recommendations of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

EPL has also accused Nema of taking sides with LDK stating that the SGS laboratory whose samples showed LDK’s compliance with environmental regulations had conflict of interest in the matter.

“EPL had previously raised an issue with NEMA on the objectivity of SGS laboratory. Machakos County Government tested the samples and delivered them to four different laboratories and only SGS said LDK were compliant,” stated the letter from EPL.

EPL also claimed it was left out during the process of determining validity and assessing the test result, a directive issued by the committee.

“Nema should have involved EPL and LDK during the process but EPL was left out in the assessment,” read EPL’s letter to the House clerk.

A report by Environment and Natural Resources Committee looking into environmental pollution by LDK reveals that “families, especially expectant mothers and children, could be suffering from long terms health complications from the pollution.”

The 2018 report questioned the reopening of LDK after Nema had ordered its closure over failure to comply with three improvement orders issued on May 6, July 21 and September 8, 2016.

“A close down order was given to LDK on February 6, 2017, due to its air pollution and releasing of effluent that was not meeting set standards. However, the distillery reopened but it was not clear whether it had met the expected conditions,” read the report by the committee.

The committee also claimed Nema had turned a blind eye to LDK’s pollution for more than 30 years from the time it opened in 1982. 

The committee gave Nema and LDK six months from the date of the tabling of the report (August 29, 2018) to ensure the distiller invests in state-of-art technologies that mitigate pollution and put in place stringent internal self-regulation.

Failure to implement the recommendations, the factory was to be closed or relocated at the owner’s cost.

“It is now almost 30 months since the report was adopted and is yet to be implemented,” read the letter by EPL.

“Nema has failed to show any evidence to substantiate the assertion that LDK had invested in state of art technology to contain pollution. There were no photos, confirmed invoices or physical confirmation by Nema officers of any new equipment,” read the letter by the MD.