Ailing Uchumi hires HR firm to probe theft by employees

Uchumi Supermarkets has hired a Nairobi-based human resources firm, Hipora Business Solutions East Africa, to investigate theft by staff of the loss-making retail chain.

Acting Uchumi chief executive Owino Ayondo said the investigation would cover employees in all the three regional countries in which Uchumi has operations.

“This is a company-wide exercise that is not targeted at specific branches,” Mr Ayondo told the Business Daily in an interview.

Kenyan businessman John Wanjohi and his South African partner Tshepo Monnanyana own Hipora Business Solutions East Africa Ltd.
The investigation has already started in Uganda, said Mr Ayondo.

Uchumi has 39 branches spread across Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda with a staff count of about 4,500.

Hipora is also a human resources agent for Tuskys, Eastmatt, Nakumatt, Quickmart and Maathai and Eastmatt supermarkets, among other emerging local retailers.

“We are assessing Uchumi outlets and when complete we will give our recommendations to the management,” Mr Wanjohi told the Business Daily.

Hipora offers services in loss control management, investigations and staff recruitment.

Uchumi Supermarkets has been in a reorganisation drive less than two months after it sacked its former chief executive Jonathan Ciano alongside the chief finance officer Chadwick Omondi Okumu over what it termed as negligence and misconduct.

READ: Why Uchumi sent Ciano, finance chief packing

The retailer owes its suppliers more than Sh1 billion.

It recently acquired the services of consultancy Deloitte to headhunt for a new chief executive after Mr Ciano’s exit.

The involvement of diverse consultants is meant to fix loopholes and system weaknesses that have made it easy for staff to steal from the company while others acted as agents for suppliers of goods and services, compromising the company’s supply department.

Uchumi has now turned to borrowing from banks and selling some of its assets to offset debts.

The retailer announced an intention to sell its land in Nairobi valued at about Sh2 billion to pay off debts and recapitalise the business.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed retailer raised nearly Sh1 billion last year through a shareholders’ cash call.