BY NMG: Supplying to prisons in Kenya: For the last 11 years, Ms Lucy Waitherero has been supplying foodstuff and firewood to six prisons in Kiambu, Murang’a and Machakos counties, the only income generating venture she has known for all these years.
But the mother of two, who hails from Thika in Kiambu, is among thousands of government suppliers now grappling with bad debt. Some have to play cat and mouse games with banks to avoid auctioneers who are after their property over unpaid loans.
Ms Waitherero has been supplying cereals, cooking fat and firewood to Kiambu, Ruiru, Thika Main, Thika Women, Murang’a and Yatta prisons since 2007, through two her companies — Kanyiri G Suppliers and Wild Rose Suppliers.
The businesswoman is demanding at total of Sh. 39.6 million for the deliveries she says she made to the six correctional facilities from 2013 when the department allegedly began delaying payments.
Because of non-payment, Ms Waitherero’s home in Thika risks going under the auctioneer’s hammer over a Sh. 3.2 million loan. She borrowed the money from Kenya Commercial Bank using her house as security to finance some of the tenders after it became difficult to raise supply capital due to delayed payment.
KCB is now on her case and in one of the letters, dated May 21, 2015, the bank’s Thika branch manager Samuel Ng’ang’a asked her to clear the loan within 30 days, which she did not manage to and is now playing cat and mouse games with the bank.
“They (prisons) have been asking us to continue supplying since the money will be paid. We have had to look for loans to finance the tenders because we were promised that the debt would be cleared soon, but unfortunately, no payment was made. Those who are paid are the well connected or give heavy kickbacks,” she claimed.
Failure by the prisons to pay her, she said, has also made it impossible for her to airlift the body of her daughter, Ms Nelly Wambui, for burial from US where she died on May 13.
There is a pending bill of Sh. 4.2 million at Medical City Plano Hospital in Dallas where Ms Wambui was admitted for over a month, and which she has been unable to pay while at Bedford Memorial Funeral Home where the body is being preserved, the fees have so far hit the Sh. 2 million mark.
Ms Waitherero had, through a friend living in the US, sought a guarantor, Mr Reginald Williams, who agreed to become a “primary guarantor” on her behalf for the hospital bill, hopping she could raise the money on time.
But because she did not honour the promise, the hospital management, in a letter dated July 13, warned her that it will take legal actions against her and Mr Williams and also have their names blacklisted in the United States Credit Bureau.
Ms Waitherero is demanding Sh12 million for foodstuff and Sh. 2.4 million for firewood which she claimed to have supplied at the Kiambu prison between 2012 and this year.
Thika Main Prison, according to her, owes her Sh. 10.4 million, Murang’a Prison (Sh. 7 million) while Thika Women Prison owes her approximately Sh. 4 million for supply of foodstuff and firewood.
Yatta Prison in Machakos County, she said, owes Wild Rose Suppliers Sh. 2.9 million while at Ruiru Prisons, which also doubles as a training college for prison wardens, she is demanding Sh. 836,360.
One of the delivery notes signed on October 10, 2013 by a Mr Mwalim shows that through Kanyiri G Suppliers, she delivered “56 tons” of firewood to Kiambu Prison, which she claimed have not been paid.
Another delivery note, dated January 5, 2014, and signed Mr Mwalimu, indicates the company supplied 1,800kg of “posho meal” and 340kg of cooking fat.
At Murang’a Prison, a delivery note signed by a Mamai on February 5, 2013, indicates that she supplied 2,700kg of dried beans, while at Yatta, a delivery note dated June 14, 2016, and signed by a Corporal Kasia, shows she delivered 2,160kg of dried beans.
According to the businesswoman, at the beginning, payments were made quarterly, until 2011 when the department started delaying by one year and now some suppliers are demanding payment for deliveries made as far back as 2013.
Ms Waitherero has written letters to Correctional Services Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein and Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo in which she has annexed the delivery notes and correspondence on her daughter’s case seeking their intervention in vain.
On July 9, 2018, Ms Waitherero wrote to Ms Hussein and Mr Osugo explaining that bills had not only subjected her to bad debt.
Contacted, Mr Osugo confirmed that the prisons have huge pending bills for goods supplied to them, and although he could not give the exact figure and the duration, he said Ms Waitherero could me among those owed. “I cannot tell they are for which year and who is owed and what was supplied, but they have all been listed and submitted for verification to the accounting officers who are in the PS’s office for payments,” Mr Osugo said.