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War of words between CS Munya, KTDA over elections escalates

By Fredrick Obura | March 24th 2021
Agriculture CS Peter Munya (PHOTO: FILE)

NAIROBI, KENYA: A row between the government and KTDA management services has taken a new twist with both parties opting to use local dailies to address concerns.

KTDA Management services bought space in Standard Newspaper early this week to express dissatisfaction on how elections were being conducted in tea factories across the country terming them unlawful following an active court case.

KTDA said the elections could easily be challenged in court as they defy an active court case stopping the 2020 tea factory directors’ elections.

“With a court order stopping the elections, on the one hand, the CS of Agriculture has, on the other hand, issued instructions for the tea factory directors’ elections to be held. Being an order of the court, the same also restrained the CS Agriculture, the Agriculture and Food Authority and any other persons from conducting the said elections,” read a statement by Kenya Tea Development Agency.

In response on Wednesday, the CS Peter Munya led Ministry of Agriculture chose the same medium to address KTDA equating the court cases a move to block reforms in the sector which is meant to put more money in farmers pockets.

On the contrary, Munya said there is no court order stopping individual factory companies from holding elections.
He says it is KTDA and other persons acting on the company’s instructions that are restrained from holding elections and not the factory companies.

The CS lined up eight-point agenda to defend action which led to multiple elections in tea growing zones across the country in the past week.

On the elections, he said the government has a duty to advice factory companies on legal implications for instance resulting from delayed elections.

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In December last year, the registrar of companies at the request of KTDA extended by six months the time within which the already delayed factory companies elections were to be held. Four months have since lapsed and at the end of the extended period, factories that have not held elections will be non-compliant and potentially exposed to penalties under the law, Munya argued.

“It is clear that the goals of KTDA management services is to avoid scrutiny, keep its expensive lawyers happy, block reforms and all to keep its opaque operations from disclosure,” said CS Peter Munya in a statement.

“There are multiple lawsuits filed in courts up and down in the country by KTDA, all are against one or more aspects of reforms that were meant to put more money in farmers pockets,” he noted.

In scoring down his point, the CS questioned the management style of KTDA when all indicators point to declining earnings from the commodity. The total payout to the growers declined from Sh58.76 per kg of Greenleaf in 2016/17 to Sh52.83 in 2017/18 to Sh41.27 in 2018/19 and Sh36.64 in 2019/20.

The Ministry of Agriculture last week sidestepped the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and took charge of the election of directors of tea factories.

The factories started electing their directors from Friday last week, according to a schedule issued by the ministry on Thursday, in a process that has been staggered to May 22.

The polls will be held at extraordinary general meetings, which the ministry said are being convened after farmers issued notices.

Farmers, the ministry said, had also requested the government for support including the provision of security at the election centres.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the ministry is implementing the directives issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta a week ago, which required the Tea Board of Kenya to help the factories hold elections.

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