Tourism CS Balala sued over closure of Utalii Hotel, colleges

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 00:00 |
Tourism CS Najib Balala. Photo/PD/FILE

Tourism CS Najib Balala has been sued over the closure of Utalii Hotel and constituent colleges in the Coast and Kisumu.

The petition before the constitutional court is the second action after another case was filed in the Labour Court challenging the ministry’s decision to close down the four-star hotel on Thika Road, which for many years has served as training ground for hospitality players at Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi.

The petition, filed by Emmanuel Dennis Ngongo on behalf of various stakeholders, says the tourism ministry did not consult interested parties including students, former students and employees of the institution before ordering the hotel closure.

“The reasons for the closure are not justifiable since the institution is meant to expose students to real experience and not profit making,” says the petition filed under a certificate of urgency by EMK Advocates of Nairobi.

The applicant, an alumnus of Utalii College and a member of the Kenya Utalii College Association, accuses the CS of acting against the constitution by closing the hotel without involving all stakeholders in the decision.

“The petitioner avers that despite the college being a public entity, no consultation or public participation was conducted in arriving at the decision to close the institution,” says the petition.

The petitioner further contends that the hotel management is culpable for the financial woes facing the institution because of poor leadership, misuse of resources and unsound financial planning.

The suit in which the Tourism PS and Kenya Utalii College have been listed as co-respondents will come up for mention for purposes of taking hearing directions on May 28.

The government closed Utalii Hotel and satellite campuses of the Kenya Utalii College in Kisumu and Mombasa, on April 23, citing financial difficulties.

The ministry said the hotel “does not generate revenue and yet depletes the institution’s resource in covering overhead costs”.

Principal Secretary Salina Kwekwe said the satellite campuses were expensive to run yet they lacked enough students to sustain their operations.

“The college has been closed until such a time that its board, management and the ministry develop a sustainable and profitable operational plan,” the PS said in a memo to Kenya Utalii College CEO and Principal Hashim Mohammed.

“Following the submissions made by your office, it was noted that it is not viable for the institution to operate the Kenya Utalii hotel as it does not generate revenue and yet depletes the institution’s resource in covering overhead costs,” Kwekwe said in her letter to Mohamed.

Kwekwe directed the Utalii college management transfer all the guest currently staying at the hotel to other venues.

Also to suffer a similar fate are the two Utalii College satellite campuses in Kisumu and Mombasa which Kwekwe says are not sustainable due to low student enrolment.

“The satellite campuses in Kisumu and Mombasa are expensive to run yet we do not have enough students to sustain their operations,” she states.

Following the closure of the campuses, students will complete all their pending programmes via online learning. 

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