NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 1 – Members of Nairobi County Assembly on Monday heard that there over 7,000 unlicensed bars and liquor outlets operating across the city.
The County’s Budget Committee has been querying different revenue streams following the drop in revenue collection in the county to establish the gaps and give appropriate recommendations. Liquor licensing is one of those streams where revenue has been declining.
The committee led by Chairman Robert Mbatia sought to know the number of bars in Nairobi, those licensed and unlicensed and also get to know the revenue performance in the last two financial years.
Liquor Board CEO Hesbon Agwena told the committee that the last audit on number of bars in Nairobi was done in 2016 which indicated that there are 12,500 outlets in Nairobi.
Angwena said in the financial year 2016/17 the aim was 7,000 bars with targeted revenue of Sh350 million but only realised Sh202 million from 4,800 bars.
In the financial year 2017/2018 their target was 7,000 bars and the target for revenue was Sh287 million but only collected Sh154 million from 5,000 bars.
In this financial year 2018/2019 the board’s target is 4,800 bars targeting Sh287 million and so far they have realised Sh124 million from 3,900 bars.
The Committee Chair Robert Mbatia questioned why the targeted number of bars was decreasing instead of increasing.
“I would like to know what has been informing your decision to reduce the target of bars from initial target of 7,000 to now about 4,800 yet the number of bars opening is increasing on a daily basis,” said Mbatia.
In response, the CEO liquor board said that most of the bars are located in slums and residential areas and do not meet the criteria of issuance of license with most of them failing the public health qualification.
Emily Oduor a member of the committee said that isn’t a reason enough because the bars are still operating even if they are not licensed hence denying the county revenue.
“I do not see a reason why you don’t collect revenue from these bars, people are still drinking from there and if you think they don’t meet the criteria they should have been already closed down,” she said.
Agwena had difficulties in explaining to the committee why they were not collecting revenue from those bars and why they were still operating instead of closing them down if at all they did not meet the criteria for licensing as he claimed.
Utawala MCA also a member of the committee Patrick Karani asked whether that was a strategy being used to collect money outside the established framework saying that he fails to understand how unlicensed bars are left to operate.
“Over the weekends we see most of these officers collecting money from bars and I’m forced to think that that’s a protection fee that operators give your officers so that they continue operating illegally,” stated Karani.
Agwena admitted that corruption cannot be ruled out as he cannot know what some of his officers are doing on the ground.
He however said they are planning to conduct another audit to establish the number of bars that are currently in Nairobi to get the exact number of all bars and enforce strict measures to non-compliant operators.