By Ndungu Gachane
A section of bar owners have filed a lawsuit at Muranga law court against Muranga County Government and the Bar Owners Association over what they term as illegal and irregular levies which are not listed by the circular from the Liquor Licensing Board.
The bar owners claim there exist an unholy union between the Liquor Licensing Board and the association where they are allegedly forced to cough Sh4000 extra of the normal payments of either a bar, a bar and a restaurant or the hotel and night club charges.
Led by Mr Patrick Karangu, the members want the court to scrap the additional charges which they say is combined efforts by the devolved unit and the association officials to force them join an association without their own volition.
“The circular from the devolved unit is very clear, we are supposed to pay Sh11000for a retail alcoholic Drink bar, Sh25000for a bar and restaurant sand Sh40000 for the Hotel and Night club but every time we go to the office of the Liquor Board director, we are turned away and reprimanded to first pay Sh4000 to a bar association, where Sh2000 is for registration to the association while the rest is for fumigation.
We feel there is collusion between the two entities to siphon our money through dubious means and that’s why we have filed the suit in court under miscellaneous petition 4 of 2020,” Mr Karangu said.
He wonders why they are forced to pay fees for fumigation to an association and why the contributions are ending up in private accounts registered under the chairperson of the association Mr Simon Wa Jogoo and two women, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations must wade into the matter and initiate probe,” Mr Karangu told our news desk.
They alleged that the two entities are operating in a cartel like manner and want the matter looked injto until a logical conclusion is found
However Liquor Board Director Jonathan Munene and Mr Simon Wa Jogoo have separately dismissed the allegations saying the members are just misinformed on the gains made by the Association in efforts to bargain for reduced levies.
The chairperson said there existed a guideline by the Ministry of Health that requires all bar owners to join a recognized association to collectively observe the presumption of work procedures in efforts to fight the Covid-19.
“The Ministry of Health requires bar owners to join a recognized association so that together we can observe the presumption of duty guidelines in readiness to fight Covid-19, our close working relationship with the devolved unit has seen us re-open over 1000 bars and restaurants, we are only doing this to help our people” he said.
On his part Mr Munene said the extra Sh2000 goes for fumigation while the rest Sh200 goes for registration to the association and that twe account has three signatories of the officials of the group.
He said joining the association has not only reduced the amount that each would be required to contribute for fumigation but has also seen a serious reduction of levies to create an enabling working environment to all the players in the bar sector.
“If members are not in a registered association, they would be required to contribute Sh10000 for fumigation but we approached the Health department and we decided that they contribute Sh2000 only, we also reduced levies from Sh27000 for an ordinary bar to Sh11000 to enable them resume work after being hardly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr Munene said.
He maintained that for there to have sanity in the bar sector his office decided to work closely with the associations as the devolved systems failed to work.
But there lacks a by law in the County that requires all bar owners to join the Association a lacuna that may make the bar owners’ case string and possible compel the devolved unit to scrap the additional Sh4000
The suit has been certified as urgent and the litigants given 21 days to serve the respondents.