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Service charge: To pay or not to pay?

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By LILYS NJERU
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Until 2013, Ms Eva Nyawira and her three children were living a quiet life on a parcel of land she had bought in 2007 in Membley Estate in Ruiru, Kiambu County. Although the area was off the beaten path, when she moved there, she didn’t mind since she no longer had to pay rent.

However, with the launch of the Eastern Bypass in 2009, there was an influx of people in the area, and soon, bungalows began sprouting all around her. After a few years, the issue of service charge arose, and the peace they had enjoyed was disrupted.

“I attended some of the inceptive meetings with my neighbours, where we discussed security, and it was agreed that we needed a guard. However, I found the proposed Sh2,500 a month exorbitant, since there are over 50 homes in our court. I refused to pay and since then, I have known no peace,” she said.

Ms Nyawira is not alone. Her predicament is shared by many homeowners who are struggling with the monthly service charges set by the management committee or property managers.

According to Mr Xavier Babu, a property manager in Nairobi West, the amount of service charge is dependent on the estate or the rent payable.

“For instance, in areas such as Syokimau and Ruiru, the service charge ranges between Sh2,000 and Sh5,000, while those in areas such as Kilimani, Lavington, Brookside and Kileleshwa range between Sh 5,000 and Sh 20,000.”

At Vigilance Homes, a residential court in Kitengela, members contribute Sh1,000 per month, which goes toward paying the security guards, with other ad hoc contributions of Sh2,000 meeting road construction/ repair, planting or watering trees.

Mr Babu says that the service charge in gated communities and controlled developments meet expenses such as garbage collection, cleaning common areas, fumigation, security, radio alarm backup and maintaining e common swimming pools.

However, he revealed that in some estates, the companies providing the services are owned by the committee members, who might impose heavy charges so that they benefit.

In some estates, the residents who refuse to pay are denied services such as garbage collection, fumigation and excluded from neighbourhood activities.

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And Ms Nyawira offered, “According to the welfare association, those who refuse to pay the Sh2,500 open the gate for themselves. I was okay with that, but on many occasions when I open the gate, the guards close it after I get into my car, so I have to get out and open it again. I don’t see why I should pay the fee because the main gate is over 700 metres from my house and there is no perimeter wall; it is only partly fenced using barbed wire, with some areas unfenced.”

‘‘Ironically, only those who drive are targeted. People who don’t drive walk in and out of the court without any problem,” she explained, adding that she is frequently insulted and threatened by her neighbours.

According to Mr Henry Ochieng, CEO of Kenya Alliance of Residents Association, his office received complaints about service charge daily.

“Sometimes it’s someone who doesn’t want to pay who brings up the issue, or one is reported by their neighbours. At other times it is individuals complaining about exorbitant fees. We are pushing for legislation to address such issues both at the county and national levels,” he said.

“As at now, when such cases are brought to us, we cite a ruling made under petition No. 501 of 2013. Justice David Majanja was very categorical that any beneficiary of common services provided by the residents’ association should pay the fees applicable.” He, however, advised unsatisfied individuals to move a motion of proposal during the neighbourhood meetings and raise the concerns.

Mr Apollo Mboya, a High Court advocate, says that neighbourhood needs to be organised through democratic associations and have members agree on how much to pay.

“One of the main reasons why individuals refuse to pay is lack of accountability. The management committee needs to show proof of how the collected money is spent and they should not impose illegal sanctions on members,” he says.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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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.

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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.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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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

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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.

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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.

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