A tea plucker at a farm owned by Brown Investment. The company has restructured its welfare operations. [Courtesy]

The management of Brown Investment, formerly James Finlay-Kenya in Kericho has overhauled its governance structures following the February 2023 BBC report on sex-for-work scandal.

In a report seen by The Standard, the company has admitted weaknesses in its management systems that led to incidents of sexual exploitation and gender-based violence at company.

After internal investigations, the company has since developed a new framework for remediation on previous cases and enhanced communication with employees on all matters pertaining to their welfare.

It has restructured its welfare operations, including regular training and rotation of welfare staff. It has relocated the welfare office.

The company has also reviewed all processes and policies connected with contractors’ management.

The BBC report exposed contractors who were involved in sexual exploitation where more than 70 women had been abused by managers at the plantations operated for years by James Finlay and another British company.

Redundancy

According to the report, the company has also reviewed and enforced its human resources policies pertaining to recruitment, promotion and redundancy.

Internal investigations commissioned by the new management after BBC aired a documentary containing allegations of serious misconduct by two contractors identified actual and potential risks to workers.

The report seen by The Standard established that the company’s grievance mechanisms were not working as they should.

“There are limitations to gender programmes and issues with workers representation structure. It also found that the root causes of the risks include unequal power dynamics, issues with organisational culture, fear and mistrust, and lack of governance, leadership and commitment on human and gender,” read the report in part.

The new management that took over from JFK says it commissioned two investigation teams.

The first investigation, led by Bowmans law firm examined the specific cases of exploitation raised within the BBC programme.

The second investigation, led by ethical working practices NGO, Partner Africa, comprehensively reviewed sexual violence, abuse, or harassment across the company sites.

Recommendations included enhancing welfare structures and doubling the size of the welfare team, offering free private counselling and psychosocial support to all onsite, strengthening the company’s approach to contractor management, and an extensive campaign to build awareness and trust in the company.

Investigations found several direct causes of the mentioned risks.   While this was not the primary purpose of the investigation, Partner Africa did identify positive findings about individuals’ attitudes to working at the tea company, as well as on human resource policies and communications.

The firm’s board confirmed that what has been clear for some time is that the systems and the procedures in place had not been working as they should.

“A number of organisational and cultural issues have allowed the possibility of abuse and exploitation to rise,” Group Corporate Affairs Director Ben Woolf said.

Business
Governors reject Treasury's plan to slash budget by Sh5bn
Business
Premium Kenya, Uganda rivalry rears ugly head with new milk war
Business
Nairobi among underserved aviation routes in Africa - report
Opinion
High alcohol taxes will save youth from potential harm