Cofek campaign raises questions on lobby groups

By: VINCENT ACHUKA

The timing of the online campaign by the Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) against Kenya Power has once again put lobby groups on the spot after details emerged of a cancelled financial arrangement between the two organisations.

Cofek has for weeks been calling for the sacking of Kenya Power CEO Ben Chumo over an alleged tender to procure transformers worth Sh40 billion, claiming it was marred by political interference and corruption.

However, the Sunday Nation has established that just before Cofek’s outburst, Kenya Power had withdrawn a Sh12 million-a-year sponsorship deal with the lobby.

The power distribution company had been using Cofek as a go-between in monthly sittings with its clients but recently opted to do so directly over claims of mismanagement of the funds.

It is unclear if the cancelling of the deal led to the onslaught, but the timing has raised suspicion.

Cofek Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro admits Kenya Power had been sponsoring part of its activities but denied the online campaign has anything to do with the withdrawal.

“Someone could say that we are shouting because we were doing some activities with them and they were halted, but we are not interested in their money,” Mr Mutoro said.

He said: “Why can’t they answer the questions we are raising?

In a series of social media posts, Cofek has also turned the heat on the media for failing to join their fight to have Mr Chumo sacked.

COFEK VS NAKUMATT

In an interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Mutoro accused this reporter of having been paid by Kenya Power to question Cofek’s intentions.

Kenya Power has disputed the facts being used by Cofek in its campaign, clarifying that the tender for the purchase of transformers was worth Sh2.6 billion, not Sh40 billion.

“Kenya Power’s budget for this year is Sh52 billion. There is no sense in using the whole amount to purchase 200,000 transformers. Where would they go when the grid can only support 50,000 transformers?” Mr Chumo said.

He said it was unfortunate the consumer lobby had decided to “go personal” by attacking him.

“Anyone can tell that there is something else and it is not about the transformers as claimed,” he said.

Cofek is also involved in a controversial court case with Nakumatt after it accused the supermarket of misrepresenting prices of goods.

However, Nakumatt Managing Director Atul Shah said the consumer lobby wanted to embarrass him and the company after an attempt to extort them failed.

Some of the complaints against consumer lobby groups partly prompted the Competition Authority of Kenya to ask all of them to register by next month as it develops a regulatory framework.

Other public-interest groups, most of which run as one-man shows with no proper organisational structure, have also not escaped controversy.

Nderitu Njoka, the chairman of Maendeleo ya Wanaume, which says it fights for men’s rights, is fighting charges of obtaining money by false pretences in Samburu.

And in the education sector teachers unions and school heads associations have for a long time been calling for the dissolution of two bodies: the Kenya National Association of Parents (Knap) and the Kenya National Parents and Teachers Association (KNPTA).

WHICH IS WHICH?

Knap is led by Musau Ndunda while KNPTA is led by Nathan Barasa and both claim to fight for parents’ interests.

The organisations are claiming a stake in all Parents and Teachers Associations (PTAs) and payment for the role.

School heads and the Kenya National Union of Teachers say the two bodies are just commercial entities that solicit money from head teachers for personal gain.

“Schools are being forced to part with hefty sums of money to these two parents’ associations that are using the same constitution, are serving the same schools, they claim to speak for the same parents and also claim to address the same issues,” Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national Chairman John Awiti said.

KNPTA, however, said it was the one mandated by law to represent parents.

“The Third Schedule of the Basic Education Act clearly stipulates who should constitute the parents association and their functions. Let Ndunda tell you who his members are,” Mr Barasa said.

Mr Ndunda has, however, always maintained his organisation is the official representative of parents.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION