By Allan Wanjiku
A section of tea farmers has accused Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) of misappropriating farmers’ earnings through overpayment of lawyers and have written to Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) demanding for forensic audit for possible prosecutions to the senior management.
The farmers aver that although Sessional Paper No 2 of 1999 seeks to achieve economies of scale, the agency through senior management and board members have allegedly colluded to misappropriate farmers’ moneys through filing numerous lawsuits on matters that are of no beneficial interest to farmers.
“There is circumstantial evidence that certain senior management and board members of KTDA are casually issuing instructions to its lawyers on matters that are of no beneficial interest to the farmers, whom they purport to represent and safeguard. More so, a lot of these payments to the lawyers are grossly overstated in what’s tantamount to theft of farmers money,” the farmers claimed.
In a letter to DCI received on August 12, the 8 farmers drawn from Kiru tea factory (Muranga), Rorok Tea Factory (Bomet), Momul Tea Factory (Kericho) and Munuga Tea Factory (Kirinyaga) wants the DCI to prosecute the management of KTDA for economic crimes and embezzlement of public funds, to surcharge them and to force them to step aside should they find evidence in their claims.
“Should your good office find any evidence of loss of funds by farmers under funny self-enrichment schemes by these individuals, we demand that the culprits be immediately prosecuted for economic crimes and embezzlement of public funds, be forced to step down from their positions at KTDA and be personally surcharged and forced to pay any amounts lost on their account. It is our prayer that your good office will consider this matter with urgency and move with speed to ensure farmers’ sweat starts to be appreciated and protected at all costs,” the letter read in part
By giving examples in the letter, the farmers accused the agency of inflating the legal bill on a suit pitting it against three Muranga farmers who had gone to challenge the manner in which KTDA carries out their elections saying while the three farmers used half a million the agency used Sh200,000,000 million.
“The ruling of this case was made 3 months later on20th February 2020 in KTDA’s favor. The farmers lost against their master. I understand that the farmers on one end spent approximately Sh500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand) on the entire suit while KTDA billed factories a cumulative of Sh200,000,000 (Two Hundred Million Shillings) for this case!!! This was 400 times what the farmers spent on their lawyers for the same case,” the farmers claimed.
They added that the agency that ought to safeguard the interests of farmers has also allegedly been instructing their lawyers to issue threats of “cease and desist” to anyone who speaks openly about KTDA’s incompetence, excesses and governance issues.