Nakuru County to embrace e-liquor licensing system to help curb alcohol menace
Written by Jeremy Ogolla
Nakuru County Government seeks to leverage the digitization of its alcohol and drink control sector to help boost its revenue collections and curb the escalation of alcohol abuse problems that have rocked most parts of the County due to corruption.
This comes against a backdrop of an analysis by the Nakuru Bar Owners Association which reveals that about 900 bars and restaurants which operate in Nakuru County are neither licensed nor inspected leading to the unfair practice among players and, as well as the County Government losing millions of shillings.
Nakuru County director for Alcohol and Drink Control, Mr. Xavier Lugaga said digitalizing the system of the sector is the way to go, as it will be a complete departure from paper-based to an online licensing application, processing and renewal.
“Issues of digitization must be introduced in this sector, where the application and payments by the bar owners and pub operators are to be done online then the applicant is to be issued with a receipt. The same applies to the approvals for the licenses as the relevant County officials will carry out the inspection online before authorizing the printing of receipts online” said Mr Lugaga.
The e-liquor licensing system will be a reform and modernisation tool to improve service delivery in its Alcohol and Drink Control sector.
Trade Chief Officer Mr Samuel Ndegwa lauded the move of digitizing the Alcohol and Drink control sector, saying this will ensure seamless processes of liquor licensing and applications even as the Nakuru County gears towards hosting the World Safari Rally.
“We will make sure that the liquor licensing and inspections processes are as seamless as possible, more so as we are heading towards the Safari Rally Event, we have to plan in advance to avoid the same confusion experienced during the last event, where the selling of alcohol was marred with lawless during the world event,” said Mr Ndegwa.
The CO said there is a need to control the consumption of illicit brews that endanger lives, reiterating that the County Government will revoke the licenses of any liquor shops and bars that sell such sub-standard alcohol to the public.
“There are some specific liquor vendors who normally give us an excuse that the victims only come for a top-up having taken illicit brews elsewhere. I think these are some of the investigations we are liaising with the Directorate of Criminal Investigation to have sufficient and well-documented evidence before we decide to close down such joints, “said the CO.
They were speaking during a meeting with members of the Nakuru County Alcoholic Drinks Regulations Administrative Review Committee where they challenged them to help Governor Susan Kihika in achieving the agenda of restoring sanity in the alcoholic sector.
“We are on a very tight balance between getting revenue and sticking to what the law says and what Mwanainchi wants. I am very grateful that at least you will take up the roles and I can say that we believe in you, as your job has just started. As we have discussed with the Nakuru County Secretary Dr Samuel Mwaura, this war on illicit brew will not be left to the National Government alone, but as the County Government we shall take the mantle as well,” said Mr Ndegwa.
The County Alcoholic Drinks Regulations Administrative Review Committee is established under section 10 of the Nakuru County Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2014 where sub-section 3 stipulates that they are responsible for reviewing appeal decisions made by a Sub-County Committee.
The meeting comes barely a month after Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua together with H.E Governor Susan Kihika during the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse conference called on the need to regulate the issuance of licenses for bars and pubs, saying consumption of illicit liquor has reached worrying levels and threatens to clear a generation of the youth, particularly in most parts of Nakuru County.
Governor Kihika said her administration was working on a proposed law to stem the spread of illicit brews, adding that the county government has streamlined the issuance of bar licenses.
The Review Committee member Mr. Amos Maina however pointed out some of the key sectors for collaboration as they prepare to best execute their mandates.
Among the key sectors he highlighted that can help them to execute their mandates best include Land and Physical Planning, Security, Public Health sector, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), and National Intelligence Service (NIS) among others.
The County Assistant Commissioner, Mr Abraham Chepkoech who also attended the meeting, however, called on the need to apply the multi-agency approach when it comes to curbing the menace of illicit brew, imploring the private players within the sector to join hands with both the National and County Government in the fight against the vice.
“It is good that now we have this Review Committee in place. May I now pass the regards of the County Commissioner who promised to be on the upfront of working with the committee to ensure that whatever was discussed on illicit brews yesterday by Deputy President Gachagua and Governor Kihika is implemented to help control the menace,” said Mr Chepkoech.
Bahlita Association Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Boniface Gachoka however said as private players in the liquor industry, they have had a good working relationship with the County Government on the Alcohol and Drink sector, calling on the members of the Review Committee to replicate the same spirit as they will be executing their mandate.
“My wish and my prayer to the Review Committee is that we will work together, as the private players we will support you. And when we go around with you in all 11 Sub-counties, we will show you our officers from all the Sub-counties and I implore you to work with them closely. So, when you are executing your mandates always ensure you don’t soil the name of H.E Governor Susan Kihika, so avoid taking bribes from the lawless in the sector,” said Mr Gachoka.
Mr. Gachoka called on the committee members to always be consultative especially while undertaking their mandate so as to be able to achieve their goals and mandates as stipulated in the constitution.
“We are requesting that the majority of the liquor processes should be digitized especially the application which is just a normal thing of paying 2,000 Kenya shillings. This will avoid instances where those applying for licensing are asked for a bribe to accomplish the registration and application process,” said Mr Gachoka.
Meanwhile, the County Physical Planner, Mr Daniel Jaji said those operating Wines and Spirits shops in makeshift structures are breaking the laws, as the structures do not have approvals from the County administration.
He thus instructed the officers from the Land’s department who are involved in the inspection of such premises to not recommend licensing such premises which are built on the roads, sewerage lines and along the rivers.
“We are also encouraging the owners of the wine and liquor shops to be obtaining a certificate of occupation of the premises that they are operating in because some of them are not structurally sound, “said Mr Jaji.
In Nakuru County, so far 2900 liquor premises are approved with the remaining 700 needing to be reviewed.
This meeting comes barely two months down the line, after the County administration inaugurated into the office the newly appointed members to the Sub-county Alcoholic Drinks Regulation Committee, with each representative drawn from the 11 Sub-county.
The committees are established under section 9(s) of the Nakuru County Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2014 which provides a law for control, Licensing, regulation and general administration of the manufacture, advertisement, sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in the County.
Speaking while officiating the inauguration of the appointed committee members in April this year, Nakuru County Secretary Dr Samuel Mwaura asked the new appointees to ensure proper implementation of the Liquor Act and the County Government policy on Liquor Licensing.
“H.E Governor Susan Kihika has confidence in this very committee. Your vetting in this committee has been very rigorous, I am calling on you to protect your image and the image of the Governor by avoiding corruption,’’ said the CS.
Dr Mwaura said the County administration will ensure that the committee works systematically and in harmony with other departments, especially the public health, to avoid contradictions during inspections, calling on the Department of Trade through its liquor directorate to issue guidelines on how to do this.