Traders feel heat of county's Unified Business Permit

City Hall, Nairobi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

For seven years now, Anthony Kivuva, a businessman in Umoja estate, has been operating an eatery that mostly serves fast food and other delicacies.

As required by county laws, he had been paying for certain business permits on an annual basis to avoid crossing paths with county officers.

For a long time, he used to pay for each permit separately, until the county announced plans to roll out the Single Business Permit, which was activated on January 1.

The Unified permit combines the business, fire, food, health, and advertising licences into one, unlike in the past when traders were supposed to get multiple licenses.

Ideally, this will allow Nairobi businesspersons to pay for their licences online and receive an electronic unified business permit.

“I am glad that the UBP has now been activated as part of a deliberate effort to improve the ease of doing business parameters in this city,” Governor Johnson Sakaja said during the activation exercise.

However, some traders now say they were not informed that the new platform comes with extra charges. Among them is Kivuva, who claims this caught him off-guard.

“We had not been notified that the Unified Business Permit comes with extra charges; in my case, what I used to pay has doubled,” he said.

For his hotel business, the trader used five permits: a business permit, food hygiene permit, fire certificate, advertising permit for the signpost outside his eatery, and a health permit.

For the business permit, he used to pay Sh15,000, for food hygiene Sh7,000, for fire Sh4,500, and individual permits like health Sh1,000 each. Roughly, he would pay around Sh25,000.

“Now they have put them into the Unified Business Permit, which, when I logged in after activation, the message I got says I’m supposed to pay Sh51,000,” the trader said.

Adding that, “Sincerely, I’m not able to raise this. I either close or send my three employees home. The county ought to have revealed the charges and even conducted public participation.”

The county explained that the Unified Business Permit regime is also expected to boost the Nairobi City County Government’s own source revenues (OSR) performance.

Sakaja explained, “With the activation, the county government is now on course to generate and reach its target of Sh20 billion in Own Source Revenues to fund development projects in the city.”

Lydia Mathia, the County Chief Officer for Public Participation, said the charges were increased since all the permits have been combined and uploaded in the new system.

She said according to the recently passed finance act, some charges for business permits and rates were increased.