Kenya: Royalty Collectors to Face the Music

24 September 2020

The copyrights agency has alerted law enforcers about cash leakages discovered in organisations that collect musicians' royalties, signalling a time of reckoning for those who have been pilfering artistes' money.

The Kenya Copyright Board (Kecobo) has taken a tough stance against the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK), the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk) and the Kenya Association of Music Producers (Kamp) -- commonly called collective management organisations (CMOs) -- and has ordered staff and board members at the three organisations who have been adversely mentioned in a recently completed forensic audit to step aside.

It has also ordered an overhaul of the systems the CMOs use to collect and distribute royalties from entertainment establishments, matatus, media houses and other avenues.

The decision was taken in a Kecobo board of directors' meeting held on Monday to discuss the report handed in by audit firm Ronalds LLP two weeks ago.

Forensic audit

The Kecobo-sanctioned forensic audit that focused on the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 found a number of malpractices that abetted misuse of money meant to go into artistes' pockets. MCSK, Prisk and Kamp were then ordered to file their responses in seven days.

"The board noted that the responses received from the three CMOs were not sufficient to change the findings of the earlier draft forensic report," said a press statement from Kecobo Wednesday.

"Amongst the resolutions reached by the Kecobo board of directors include the decision to submit the final audit reports to law enforcement agencies to investigate suspected fraudulent transactions in the CMOs. To facilitate quick investigations, the board has directed that the CMO staff and board members mentioned in connection with possible loss of members' funds step aside as required under section 46F of the Copyright Act," it added.

Kecobo said investigations and any prosecutions that may follow will be conducted professionally.

New policies

Regarding the overhaul of the royalty collection systems, the Kecobo board chaired by Mr Mutuma Mathiu, ordered the management to issue new policies to be implemented before the new licensing period. The changes are to be announced by end of October.

Mr Mathiu, who was appointed into the position in January, is championing a number of changes in the way CMOs, which are licensed by Kecobo, are run.

The reforms being pursued include introducing administrative and oversight measures, a new audit tool for biannual review of CMOs, restructuring CMOs' management arrangements to save costs and ensure efficiency, among others.

The audit by Ronalds LLP unearthed issues such as ghost members in the registers, diversion of royalties, non-remission of statutory deductions, negligence in asset management, irregular payments among others.

The findings drew sharp reactions from local musicians. Among those who made public their views is Willy Paul (real name Wilson Radido) who lamented that artistes pump a lot of money into producing their works, only for a few individuals to reap from them under the guise of helping them collect royalties.

"We don't work for you," he said.

Rapper Khaligraph Jones (Brian Robert Ouko) said an audit was not even necessary because the pilferage has been known to be ongoing for a while.

Singer Boneye (Boniface Chege) took to Instagram to call for prosecution of those who have been mismanaging royalties.

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