How Simple Homes employees were monitored and threatened
By Vincent Achuka and Silah Koskei
Updated Sunday, March 19th 2017 at 10:12 GMT +3
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Intrigues of how Simple Homes covered its thieving ways can now be revealed.
Details show underpaid staff, who made millions of shilling very week for the company, were closely monitored through CCTV, and never met some of those purported to be their bosses. At the top management level were three directors, Argwings Kodhek, Lilian Wangui and her sister Hellen Wambui. At Centenary House where the company’s offices were, Susan Langat was in charge as the General Manager.
Lilian Wangui was initially operating from Centenary House but stopped in June last year. She, however, had CCTV cameras installed in the office to monitor the employees round the clock from a remote location.
The employees were grossly underpaid, threatened whenever they asked questions and like the buyers, they were selling non-existent houses to, they too worked on hope.
And because the company was mostly selling houses on the internet, it also hired random people to praise it especially on Facebook in order to diffuse questions whenever they arose.
But for the employees, those who asked questions about the shady nature of the company’s business model were fired while those who brought in millions, were promised promotions which never came. Beryl Ogema was fired on January 16 after she asked questions about the houses the firm was purporting to sell. Her termination letter, however, says she “was sharing confidential information about the company with unauthorised persons.”
Susan Langat, who until the company closed was its general manager, talked to The Standard on Sunday from Eldoret where she relocated after the scam broke out. Langat told The Standard on Sunday that her life is in danger following threats from the company owners. Despite being the boss of a company making an average Sh10 million a week from our calculations and audio recordings of their meetings in our possession, she was earning a paltry Sh35,000 per month. She joined the company after she came for an activation at the Jubilee Christian Church some time in 2015.
“I immediately got their contacts because I loved the concept, I asked for a job. They accepted me and we started training,” she says.
Payments by clients were being made through Mpesa pay bill number 247247, cheques drawn in favour of Simple Homes Development Consortium Limited or as deposits in their Equity Bank account number 0550270262803 or NIC Bank account number 1003357418. To make a sale, sales representatives would approach a client with 3D videos of a project and suggest some of the available locations while setting up the deadline for setting up the units.
“First you had to book for the space and be a member of Simple Homes by parting with Sh2 000 that would be channeled through the Simple Homes Pay Bill number,” says Langat.
“Then we would advise you to deposit 5 per cent of the total amount (Sh7 million), which translates to Sh350,000. Many did not have the amount and we would then encourage them to pay 5 per cent of the quarter, which is Sh175,000 so that we could put their details on our register,” she says. Buyers were then required to make a 5 per cent payment of the total amount. If it is Sh7 million, that would translate to Sh350,000. All clients who asked questions about the existence of the houses being sold were told to write an email to a Walter Muigai and could only see the houses after paying up the Sh350,000. An audio recording of a meeting made a few weeks before Christmas last year in our possession between Kodhek disguised as Muigai with the sales team shows that the six representatives in the meeting had raked in Sh9.64 million within that week. “Doreen I see you are at Sh3.6 million while Joel is at Sh1.98 million. Susan you are at Sh1.88 million. Susan you were the best last month but this month you are the worst why?” asks ‘Muigai.’ “Naomi I see you are at Sh1.13 million, faith Sh569,000 and Kevin Sh476,000, is there a reason? he asks. Kevin responds: “I am supposed to meet more clients,” before he gets cut short. “Kevin am convinced you are in the wrong team. All you do is make promises. I have pressured many before you to quit. Do you want to be jobless on Christmas? Do you know how hard it is to be jobless in January? It means you won’t find work till April,” barks ‘Muigai.’
And in another virtual conference done in January this year, it appears sales had dropped down to Sh6 million a week while clients who had invested their money had started asking questions and ‘Muigai’ was not pleased. “If your customer has to go on site visit for you to sell then it means you are failing. You are not convincing enough,” he says in the meeting.
“The office is doing Sh6 million a week and you are asking for a show house. Are you sales people or not? Remember a good sales person has to be able to sell sand in the desert, salt in the sea and ice to an Eskimo,” he says.