CONCERN

Importers worried over lack of radiation checks at Mombasa

This, as a go-slow by inspecting companies continues.

In Summary

•The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) has not paid inspection companies for four months.

•Lack of checks now means the public is exposed to high level of radiation on imports.

Second hand cars and containers await clearance at the Port of Mombasa/
Second hand cars and containers await clearance at the Port of Mombasa/
Image: FILE

You could be driving a radioactive car, consuming or using hazardous products if imports were made within the past four months.

This, as a go-slow by inspecting companies contracted to conduct radiation checks at the Port of Mombasa continues, as they protest non-payment by the Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA).

The companies have downed tools protesting changes effected by the authority, which is now collecting certification fees directly from importers and exports, yet not giving direct services which are left to the three companies contracted to do the checks.

The firms’ employees are demanding four months' salary.

Investigations by the Star have revealed cars are being issued with stickers indicating they have undergone checks, yet no process has been done. The same of for other imports meant to undergo checks.

The law requires scanning of used imported units for radiation contamination and analysis of imported or exported foods and related raw material for radio contamination, a service that has been outsourced.

Lack of checks now means the public is exposed to high level of radiation on imports.

The stand-off between KNRA continues as questions remain on the move by the authority to override existing Standard Operating Procedures on scanning of used motor vehicles and one between Kenya Trade Network Agency (KenTrade), service providers (inspecting companies) and the defunct Radiation Protection Board.

The schedule of fees established by the Kenya Radiation Protection Act recognises the inspecting companies as the collectors of payments for radioactivity checks, who later remit the specific required amounts for certificates to KNRA.dsb

There is no new scheduled passed allowing KNRA to directly collect payments from clients.

The payments were initially being made through an account at KenTrade.

KenTrade has since confirmed the authority requested its account moved.

A section of importers has also expressed concerns for lack of proof of payment under the new arrangement, raising questions of accountability on the millions being made in the process.

On normal occasions, about 900 to 1,000 used cars are inspected per day at the Port of entry with about 2,000 food samples checked for radioactivity.

Certification raises up to Sh30 million per month, sources familiar with the process told the Star.

The Car Importers Association of Kenya (CIAK) now wants KNRA director-general to explain why units are not being inspected yet importers are paying for the service.

It has threatened to move to court if the stand-off is not resolved and has normalcy resume, to protect the public from radioactive imports.

“They should stop charging us because there is no proper service being given,” chairman Peter Otieno said.

Several efforts to reach the authority’s director general Joseph Maina for comment have proved futile, as our phone calls, messages and emails have gone unanswered.

Radiation checks came into place after January 2013 when a container with four motor vehicles contaminated with radioactive materials was intercepted, and was recommended for reshipping to Japan.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), through its then appointed inspection agency—Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (Jevic) had given the consignment a clean bill of health, only to be rejected by the Kenya Radiation and Protection Board (KRPB) upon offloading at Mombasa.

Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause acute health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (radiation sickness).

It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

When a car has excess radioactivity, the importer is asked to ship the unit back. Where it is not high, the radiation body advice on the right chemical to clean the vehicle.