Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has gone to court in Murang’a seeking to stop office of the Auditor General from auditing the firm’s account books.
KTDA on Monday opposed the move by the government to have its books audited terming the petition before the high court over reduced bonus as sensitive.
Through their lawyer, Mwangi Kibicho KTDA wants the petition filed on October 7 by the county government be heard by a bench of an uneven number of judges.
The KTDA’s counsel in the application before Justice Kanyi Kimondo requested the judges to sit on the bench to be assigned by Chief Justice.
“The petition by the County Government of Murang’a does not raise substantial questions of law in terms of Article 165 (4) of the constitution and should be heard by an uneven number of judges assigned by the Chief Justice,” added Kibicho.
Kibicho further argues the office of the Auditor-General has no legal mandate to audit the KTDA.
“The Auditor-General is a holder of a public an independent office and pursuant to the provisions of Article 249 (2) (b) of the Constitution, is not subject to control or direction by any person or authority. The respondent is a limited liability company and the Auditor-General has no legal mandate to audit the respondent,” the lawyer argued.
The Agency in the affidavits stated that there was a similar petition No 18 of 2014 before the High Court in Kericho, in which Murang’a County Government was a third interested party.
In the application, dated October 11, KTDA Finance and Strategy Director Benson Ngari Kamau wanted the petition dismissed by the county government.
Kamau argued that claims by the county government that reduced bonus payment by 36 percent was a result of fraud, impropriety, unaccountable and economic exploitation of farmers.
The County Government moved to court under a certificate of urgency, on grounds that this year’s tea bonus payment announced by the agency was reduced as compared to that of last year.
County government Chief Officer Bernard Wanyoike in the affidavit argued that there was a reduced annual bonus payment of Sh8.9 billion, down from Sh11.2 billion of last year, thus need for a probe.
Kimondo ruled that other applications by KTDA should remain pending until the prayer seeking the matter to be referred to the CJ is heard and determined.
The judge ruled that the application be heard by inter-parties on November 29, following consent of the advocates presenting Murang’a County Government and Mwangi Kibicho for the agency.
“Other application before the court concerning the matter will remain pending. I am also extending orders seeking audit of the accounts of the Murang’a based tea factories until November 29,” ruled the judge.
Speaking elsewhere Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria said the county government is committed to ensuring farmers get justice over their produce.
He said the prayer by KTDA to transfer the case from Murang’a to Nairobi if granted will deny farmers from participating in the hearings.
Wa Iria said they will seek to enjoin the County Assembly and tea farmers in the suit.