• County's lawyer says tea sector contributes about four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
• Murang'a governor wants an apology from tea agency's CEO for saying farmers can uproot tea bushes if dissatisfied with pay.
The Auditor-General has been ordered to audit the Kenya Tea Development Agency’s accounts to establish what caused the decline in bonus payments.
Justice Kanyi Kimondo of Murang’a High Court gave the order after the county government filed a petition on Monday seeking to establish the cause of the drop.
The county, which was represented by seven lawyers, said this year's bonus had declined by about Sh2.6 billion from last year's.
“There is a substantial drop in the payments according to KTDA documents that is unexplained,” lead counsel Charles Njenga said and wanted a justification.
Njenga asked the court to direct the agency to submit documents for an audit either by the auditor general or an independent auditor.
This, he said, will make it possible for the agency’s accounts to be laid bare for farmers to establish where their money got lost.
Njenga said the situation is dire as some farmers have resorted to uprooting their tea bushes out of frustration.
He further pointed out that the sector contributes about four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and therefore, "a reduction in payments is not a small matter".
The lawyer also told the court that the Auditor General’s office is independent and has the capacity to audit KTDA.
He said there are doubts about the documents made public by the agency, adding that justice demands that in such a case, the court orders an audit.
Because of the public interest in the matter, the lawyer said, the county government is ready to shoulder any costs that will be incurred during the audit.
“The county government exists for the interests of the people living under its jurisdiction,” he said, noting that there has been a public outcry over the low payments published in the media.
The petition was listed as a matter of urgency and the county ordered to serve the respondent.
“Pending an interparty hearing, I order the Auditor-General to consider carrying out an independent audit on KTDA relating to 2019 tea bonus payments and a copy of the report presented before this court as soon as possible,” Justice Kimondo said.
Governor Mwangi wa Iria, while addressing tea farmers who had attended the hearing, demanded an apology from agency's CEO Lerionka Tiampati for saying farmers can uproot their tea if they are dissatisfied with payments.
The governor said the remarks were distasteful and showed that Tiampati does not understand the farmers’ pain.
“He is saying that because his salary is not reducing as farmers receive meagre payments."
The governor asked why a packet of 50 grammes of tea costs Sh50 in local shops yet farmers continue to get meagre payments.
He said tea should be processed and sold at the factory level as opposed to being ferried to Mombasa for auction.
Edited by R.Wamochie