The decision to demand clearance of cargo from Mombasa at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi two years ago created a chance for politicians and senior government employees to make a killing from the ensuing congestion, the Nation reports.
Two years after the controversial decision was made, investigations have been launched to establish how two companies linked to powerful politicians were given a tender to construct peripheral cargo storage facilities on behalf of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) next to the ICD.
One of the companies, Mitchel Cotts, is linked to Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and retired President Daniel arap Moi’s aide Joshua Kulei.
The other company — Nairobi Inland Cargo Terminal — has hidden its ownership in layers, according to a search done by the Nation, but has a Mr John Katiku among its shareholders.
The peripheral storage facilities are currently being used to store cargo which, for whichever reason, have overstayed at the ICD in order to reduce congestion.
At that time, it was reported that the ICD had over 30,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) containers at ICD in Nairobi.
This is because the government, which had realised that the standard gauge railway (SGR) freight service was not doing as well as it had projected, insisted that all inland cargo be cleared in Nairobi.
As a result, container traffic on the SGR shot up by four times, with the ICD receiving up to seven trains of cargo per day from just one when the freight service was launched in December 2017.
However, the ICD could only handle 15,000 TEUs, and unscrupulous officials at the ICD devised ways of creating cargo-clearance delays like had been the case at the Mombasa port in order to make money.
Soon there was an outcry from importers, saying they were losing up to Sh70 million daily on storage and detention charges due to cargo pile-up at the ICD.
The massive delays even made President Uhuru Kenyatta to make impromptu visits to the ICD on two occasions to deal with the situation, but a solution was not forthcoming.
Unable to deal with the mess, the government formed a technical committee that was supposed to come up with strategies on how to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness of transportation of cargo using SGR.
One of the strategies was to reduce the number of government agencies at the ICD.
At the time, there were 27 government agencies operating at the inland depot. “The only processes required at the port are cargo movement from vessel to the rail side, cargo loading, train marshalling, cargo quality inspection and customs clearance.
The critical agencies required at the port are: Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Railways (KR) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS),” said the committee.
“Any other interventions could take place outside the port in line with international practices to reduce inefficiencies,” it recommended.
Consequently, the Head of Public Service sent a memo to the agencies operating at the ICD and ordered them to reduce their presence at the facility.
Additionally, KPA was allowed to lease Periphery Storage Facilities (PSFs) outside the ICD.
“Congestion usually happens when you are operating at nearly 100 per cent, like what we are currently experiencing at the Port of Mombasa,” KPA Managing Director Daniel Manduku said at the time.
That was in mid-2018. A tender was floated with the hope of getting two companies that can cumulatively provide storage for an extra 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of containers.
The Nation is aware that about 30 companies applied for the lucrative tender.
And while the idea seemed noble, investigators have a reason to believe the two firms did not win fairly.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has launched investigations on how Mitchel Cotts and Nairobi Inland Cargo Terminal were approved to create the peripheral storage facilities which they later leased to KPA.
It is said the two firms were not among the 30 companies that tendered for the contracts.
The investigations, which began shortly before Christmas, have seen senior KPA managers, including embattled MD Daniel Manduku, and KRA Commissioner for Customs Kevin Safari make a trip to the DCI for questioning.
Mr Safari spent the whole day at the DCI headquarters ON Kiambu Road, Nairobi, on Thursday. He told the Nation there is nothing to worry about.
Several officials from the Customs and Border Control Department at KRA have been questioned.
“It will be good to note however that the role of issuing contracts for the peripheral storage facilities is a KPA role. KRA only inspected the facilities before they were commissioned, as required by law,” Mr Safari said.
“Investigations are however what they are. Some people will be suspects, and others will be State witnesses, and others will be let free,” he said.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.