Kenya: Leaders demand audit of Dominion books before Siaya exit

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Local officials are concerned about Dominion Farms Ltd's decision to abruptly close shop in Siaya nine months after its American founder, Calvin Burgess, had accused the area's leaders of extortion.

Business Daily | 13 Nov 2017

Leaders demand audit of Dominion books before Siaya exit

A Siaya County leader and a community lobby group have demanded a thorough audit of an American-owned rice farm's financials before it is allowed to exit the region.

They say they are concerned about Dominion Farms Ltd's decision to abruptly close shop in Siaya nine months after its American founder, Calvin Burgess, had accused the area's leaders of extortion.

“It is unfortunate that Dominion Farms had to close shop, the farm’s misfortunes can be attributed to the negative attitude it had with the local population and its leadership. They need to be thoroughly vetted before they leave,” said Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi on Monday.

The legislator added that it would be prudent if Mr Burgess paid in full the wages owed to its workers and suppliers before being allowed to shut down operations in the area.

Vet investors

He also challenged the county government to thoroughly vet any investors seeking to operate in the devolved unit in order to prevent a repeat of Dominion's case in future.

“We need to ensure that the local and future investors are thoroughly scrutinised to avoid the colonial slave – master where workers are mistreated,” claimed Mr Wandayi.

On his part, Director of Community Initiative Action Group Kenya (CIAG), Mr Chris Owala, called for a thorough investigation into the firm's decision to exit several years before expiry of its lease agreement.

He wants the County Government to initiate a transition process of transfer of the land initially leased to the company to curb tussles that may result from scramble for the parcel.

“We need to know why the investor has exited despite enjoying positive support from the local leadership... the farm needs to offset the dues it owes its workers and suppliers as well. A thorough analysis of the land use should be conducted and ensure that the land is smoothly transferred to the county government for future use,” said Mr Owala.

Extortion

The company’s woes became public in February 2017 when Mr Burgess accused Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga, Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga and five former Siaya MCAs of sabotaging its operations in the region.

Mr Burgess, who at the time read a 22 paged document at a press conference in Nairobi, accused the leaders of demanding bribes and fraud with an aim of a destabilising the company, claims that the leaders termed as false. 

Efforts by the Business Daily to reach company director Chris Abir for comment on the firm's decision to terminate its workers' contracts were futile as his mobile phone went unanswered. 

Original source: Business Daily
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