5 June 2012

Kenya: Raila Steps Into City Hall, KICC Debt Row

Prime Minister Raila Odinga last evening directed all government agencies which are indebted to the City Council to commit themselves within two days on how they will pay the debts.

The City Council is currently in a financial crisis with town clerk Roba Duba accusing government agencies of owing the council more than Sh65 billion.

The directive came after he stepped into the ongoing controversy pitting City Hall and the Kenya International Conference Centre over parking fees charged at the Comesa grounds and a Sh26m land rates debt. The row escalated yesterday, forcing the PM to summon both parties for an emergency meeting in his office. However, before the meeting took off, highly placed sources at the council intimated that the PM's office, through PS Mohammed Isahakhia released a cheque of Sh1.8million they owed the council.

The PM is said to have directed Isahakhia to write to all permanent secretaries, to commit themselves in writing to City Hall, on how they will offset the debts. Raila also formed an interministerial committee chaired by him, which has the ministries of Local Government, Tourism and the Treasury to authenticate the genuine owner of the Comesa grounds, which City Hall insists is a public ground.

The row started early Monday morning, after town clerk Roba accompanied by top council officials stormed the grounds opposite Parliament Road to charge parking fees on the vehicles. The management of KICC reacted yesterday by calling for reinforcements. A BM Security vehicle stood guard with a horde of heavily built bouncers in dark suits. But the council led by Mayor George Aladwa reacted swiftly by closing all entrance and exits points of the KICC.

A council fire engine blocked the main KICC gate on City Hall Way while a bulldozer closed the gate on Parliament Road whereas another council lorry blocked the gate facing the Treasury on Harambee Avenue. Business at the centre suffered heavily, as well as motorists, as their cars were towed in absentia and they were forced to pay Sh2140 to the council, despite having paid a monthly ticket to the KICC management. Service providers of the KCB rally, which is set to take place this weekend were unable to gain entry to KICC to set the stage and rump.

Sensing defeat, the KICC management yesterday gave the council a Sh1.5million cheque, which town clerk Roba described as a drop in the ocean. Reliable sources at KICC told the Star that the MD Beatrice Makawiti had called for an urgent board meeting this morning to approve the payment to the council. "We will not accept anything below Sh10million as down payment from KICC, otherwise, we will make their business unbearable. We will move next to their tenants and demand this months rent, until our debt is offset. We have started with KICC because they are our next door neighbours, but we are spreading fast,"said Duba. Meanwhile, Barclays bank yesterday released a Sh30million payment they owed the council in land rates.

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