Nasty wars that characterise Nairobi dump sites business
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
Men and women of all ages rummaging through filth to scavenge recyclable materials from heaps of rotting garbage are the scenes of most duming sites in main towns across the country.
For the poor families, mostly slum dwellers and street children who persevere the smoky, stinking wasteland as they sort recyclable materials for sale and leftovers to feed on, this is “God sent” chance for them to eke a living from another man’s waste.
But behind the piling garbage in landfills that are also life-threatening, lays a multi-billion venture that for long, has been controlled by politicians, businessmen and daring cartels willing to go to any length to manage garbage collection, currently under county government.
While politicians and county officials work with businessmen to viciously fight for tenders to collect filth in markets, towns, hospitals and estates, landfills have become a hotbed of criminal activity as organised gangs fight control of the city’s waste disposal industry.
That garbage venture is as dirty as its content is manifested by the amounts involved.
Probes by Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) in counties have revealed dubious tender business thrive through conflict of interests, blatant fraud as well as murders and injuries caused by gangs that are controlled by manufacturers who deal with recyclable items, fighting for dominance at a fee.
Former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Watitu, who was indicted by the Senate for running a corrupt garbage collection system once painted a picture of a lucrative business, saying he had made a fortune from among other things, garbage collection at City Hall where he started as a councilor before rising to becoming a mayor and later Embakasi MP.
Waititu, who is battling a theft case in court said he was the main garbage collector in the city, owning about 30 trucks and a private dumpsite at Mukuru kwa Rueben, a venture which he said earned him substantial wealth that enabled him acquire properties in the capital.
“I am a self-made tycoon having been a garbage collector in the city through Bins Management Service.
I am not a poor man as portrayed by my political enemies,” said Waititu.
Phillip Kisia, former Town Clerk at City Hall, knows too well how the business thrives and to what extent the baron behind the trade can go to eliminate any hurdles.
According to Kisia, when he joined the defunct City Council of Nairobi, tenders were not only being dished out to cronies of City Hall officials, but the dealers had also found a way of charging for one trip to the landfill three times.
“Tenders would be awarded fraudulently. Dealers who ferry garbage to the dumpsite would demand payment for one trip thrice.
When I cracked the whip, they threatened to frustrate me. I sent unscrupulous stuff on forced leave, installed weighing and payment systems and they had to toe the line,” Kisia told People Daily.
But City Hall, which hosts Dandora landfill, is still entangled in deeply entrenched and web-threaded vicious cartels that include high-ranking politicians, State officials and lawyers have continued to call the shots.
Majorly, the well networked group fleecing public coffers through unverified and exaggerated garbage tonnage are said to be in full control of Procurement, Finance and the Audit departments at City Hall offices.
Presently, the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) says it has unearthed a multi-billion-procurement fraud of garbage collection tenders in Nairobi involving several companies and at least eight county employees in dubious tenders, that also included supply Covid-19 related materials, and in which an elected Member of the County Assembly has been linked to.
A Yunis Ibrahim Khalif has been identified as the fulcrum in which the scam that involved tenders on garbage collection where street children are listed as the beneficiaries rotates.
A Ward Rep who is supposed to oversight the Executive on financial expenditure has been linked to the alleged scandal.
“The large cash declaration forms completed during withdrawals indicated the beneficiary of funds to be street boys employed to collect garbage,” FRC stated in an intelligence dissemination report dated November 17, and which has been forwarded to the Asset Recovery Authority for action.
According to FRC, Khalif and his business associates are suspected of using 10 entities related to them to receive millions of shillings from the Nairobi County Government and the Nairobi City County Alcoholics Drinks Control and Licensing Fund (NCCADCLF) for garbage collection services and supply of PPEs.
Flexilease, for instance, received in excess Sh982 million for garbage collection services rendered in the 2018/19 Financial Year.
Capital Waste Management received Sh58 million, Sifa Cleaning and Bins Services got Sh51.3 million while Asmara Ventures received Sh13.5 million for Covid-19 related supplies, Buko and Yassil developers got Sh4 million each.
“Suspicion of procurement fraud is based on the fact that three of the entities linked to Mr Khalif received contracts for garbage collection in Nairobi while another five firms linked to him received road construction tenders as well as contracts to supply Covid-19 equipment,” the documents read.
Last year, the now impeached Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was grilled by EACC over garbage collection contracts and payments, which detectives believed were irregularly made specifically for a period spanning two financial years, 2017/18 and 2018/19 whereby in some instance, two firms were paid Sh162 million for collecting garbage in areas they had not been pre-qualified for.
Firms contracted to collect garbage in Nairobi include Kange Construction, Yiro Enterprises, Creative Consolidated System, J W Mwangi, Tema Home Care, Nyawa Agencies, Felixilease Ltd, Vineyard Holdings, Hardi Enterprises, Jackoy Enterprises, Purlexis Enterprises, Acacia Equipment, Yiro Enterprise and Commodity Waste Management.
The Sh357.4 million-garbage tender would later deepen Sonko’s woes after he was charged alongside directors of some of the companies and county officials over allegations after EACC said it has traced part of the garbage cash to him.
In Mombasa, EACC launched a probe against the Governor Hassan Joho-led administration in 2017 over an alleged Sh1 billion garbage tendering and procurement scandal on grounds that firms licked to the county chief were awarded the tenders through single sourcing.
Manning dumpsites is fast becoming a lucrative business in various middle and low-income estates, and in Nairobi, is believed separate gangs make up to Sh30, 000 a day, by charging up to Sh1,000 for any vehicle dumping litter at the venue, a trade that has often turned bloody.
For instance, one morning in October 2015, gangs of gun-toting thugs from Dandora and neighbouring Korogocho shut down the sprawling Dandora dumpsite in a fracas that saw one youth reportedly shot, then hacked with machetes and set on fire at the height of the violence as they fought a pitched battle for control.