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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 7 September 2014


Our Reporter

Never before in the history of the Kenyan taxman’s Customs Services Department has there been so much grumbling over the management of this vital organ of the government like it has been happening lately.
The cargo clearing fraternity and merchants in Mombasa have woken up to decisions originating from Times Tower, Nairobi.
Only last week, we reported how one of the managers wept after being threatened with a sacking notice for failing to advise the headquarters on the repercussions of the transfer of officers from his region to stations across the country. He had accumulated a shortfall of Sh7b.
The transfer of over 300 border control officers from their releasing, verification areas, cargo sheds and other revenue collection centres, to border stations was one such ill-informed decision. The officers were trained customs officers but have now been reduced to gate-keepers. The situation has created a huge staff gap at the container freight stations and cargo sheds with only a handful of field officers occupying the positions formerly held by the BCOs. 
Word has it that Commissioner  Beatrice Memo has been forced to swallow her pride and she is now quietly recalling some of the officers back to their former stations.
Other transferred BCOs, especially those entrusted with processing of customs documents at the processing centre were also held back due to lack of replacements.
Other decisions relate to the newly developed methods on valuation of imported goods. All customs officers have been put on strict notice that values of imported goods must be uplifted regardless of whether or not the importers have documents to support their declared values.
After it became evident that revenue had performed poorly in the month of July and the trend was likely to continue in August, the Customs Commissioner Memo hastily issued directives that every imported 1x20 ft container should fetch not less than Sh1.5m while a 1x40 ft container should fetch not less than Sh3m in taxes.
Special divisions were formed at the 10th floor of Times Towers to  compare the number of imported containers against the revenue realised during that particular day or month.
Other instructions have been issued on certain types of imported goods which are classified as “Sensitive Cargo”. The commissioner and her top managers have set minimum amounts which must be collected from every container having any of these goods.  Data analysts will tell you that such formulae cannot work because the contents of the imported containers vary in terms of weight, packaging, actual goods, quality, prices, tax rates, origin, material, supplier and other variables.

Personal differences, internal strife and ethnicity have also taken their toll in the customs department. The first to face the wrath of the Commissioner of Customs was Charles Onduso. 
The man has found solace from none other than Commissioner General John Njiraini, who has  reappointed him to the business intelligence division of KRA. This is an investigation, analytical and advisory unit working closely with the investigation and enforcement department, currently headed by Jonah Cheruiyot.
Next in line is Hadi Abdullahi, who served as the commissioner’s personal assistant and adviser. He was kicked to an office without portfolio at the 10th Floor, Times Tower.
Another one is Sheldon Mugogo who has now been moved out of customs to the investigations Department, where he has joined his former immediate boss, David Yego, who was also moved out of customs in a recent reshuffle. Then there Margaret Mageto who once headed the international affairs desk, before she was moved out of Times Tower to Forodha House, after she fell out of favour  with the commissioner. She has been moved to the finance department.
Another is George Gitau who served as the Kilindini Port customs boss before a Mr Changole. He was posted to a less busy office to handle exemptions. He is said to be on his last leave in KRA as he prepares to retire in a month’s time. The Commissioner refused to recommend further extension of his term like she did with a Mr Lubano, who was also retiring this year.
The revenue collection division at the headquarters, is dominated by Central Kenya men and women, save for a few who are from other tribes. Led by Julius Njau Musyoki, others in the division include Agatha Munyaka, Jonathan Wambua,  Jayne Ayacko, Alfred Mukiria, Susan Njagi and the recently posted musician-cum-officer, Jimmy Wayuni. Ayacko is Charles Nyachae’s.