KRA angry with KTN over report about graft at port
A three-part investigative report by KTN in November had television viewers glued to their seats. The 2009 CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year John Allan Namu and his colleague Mohammed Ali had dug up deep-rooted corruption at the Port of Mombasa. Well-connected crooks cut deals with Kenya Revenue Authority officials to fraudulently clear imported goods and deny the government millions of shillings in tax revenues. The expose was aired ‘Zengwe Zengwe Bandarini’ during the 7 PM KTN Kiswahili news bulletin and as ‘Port of Impunity’ on KTN Prime at 9 PM.
The taxman hit the roof. In a letter to Wachira Waruru, Chairman of the Media Council of Kenya, KRA Commissioner-General Michael Waweru said the KTN report was “sensational” because “at no time did KTN show any KRA officers receiving bribes.” Moreover, it was not true that Waweru had declined to talk to the KTN reporters about the alleged scam. He had requested to see the reports before commenting, but the KTN team refused. Namu and Ali, the taxman concluded, were “overzealous rogue reporters who do not seem to understand the basic guidelines of their own profession.” They should be reined in by the Media Council.
KTN shot back: the findings of its investigation were reported accurately. Apparently daring the taxman to do his worst, the TV station announced it would re-run the reports. And then the whole saga took a hair-raising turn. KTN reporter Namu announced that he was being harassed by the taxman. Commissioner-General Waweru had reportedly sent intimidating messages regarding Namu to persons close to the reporter. The Standard Group, which owns KTN, stood by its man and condemned Waweru, saying his action was “reckless, wanting and unprofessional”.
“Instead of making the matter personal and resorting to intimidation, Commissioner-General Michael Waweru would better be advised to direct his efforts to dealing with the enormity of the matter, knowing his remains a public position, and KRA is a public institution that must be subject to scrutiny and interrogation on matters of public interest,” The Standard said.
KRA denied its boss was baying for Namu’s blood. “We wish to state in no uncertain terms that at no time did Mr. Waweru threaten the said reporter either directly or through a third party. Therefore anybody with evidence to the contrary should volunteer the same to the law enforcement agencies for appropriate action,” said Kennedy Onyonyi, KRA’s Acting Senior Deputy Commissioner in charge of marketing and communication.
Interestingly, KRA which had defended its staff against allegations of corruption, saying “at no time did KTN show any KRA officers receiving bribes”, appeared to change tune when the TV station said it would re-run the story. “We are glad that KTN is going to rerun the three-part series because we believe this will give the public another opportunity to review the news item and possibly assist KRA in identifying the staff who should be punished for engaging in corruption,” Onyonyi said.
KRA Commissioner-General Waweru had condemned the KTN investigation as “fabrications and falsehoods” that “went against basic media ethics and decency.” But the taxman no longer seemed to think so. “We appreciate such coverage as this would be supplementive to our integrity testing programme. However, the media must always give us concrete evidence to enable us take appropriate action,” the statement by Onyonyi said. It added warmly: “KRA respects and believes in the independence and freedom of the media and has never and will never use threats to hinder the media from discharging its mandate.”
Meanwhile, the Media Council went ahead to process the complaint filed by KRA. On January 5, the council’s Complaints Commission headed by Ken Nyaundi wrote to KTN regarding the issue. KTN was given 14 days to respond to the complaint. Thereafter the Commission would study the response and determine the next course of action.