The Eldoret branch of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has been accused of keeping huge seizures of substandard steel without destruction as per law.
Credible reports and complaints from various quarters, speaking on points of strict anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the matter, say keeping the seized materials for long – has the potential to be returned to the market by unscrupulous field inspectors.
‘Why would KEBS confiscate substandard steel and keep them in its’ stores for over a year? What is the real intention if not being the mischief of either releasing to the victim and or other traders at a fee?’ said one of the Cofek informers.
Most of the steel are said to belong to steel manufacturers based in Nairobi and a neighbouring County. 3 other companies are engaged in such similar mouse and cat chase games.
‘Some regions suffer higher quality challenges than Nairobi. Western and Nyanza get a raw deal. On wire products, two notorious companies have been selling bad wire products. Imagine they would sell even 3kg less of the 25kg binding wire roll to unsuspecting buyers. If not the width, the lengths are mostly shorter. KEBS must be fair to consumers. We sell genuine stuff. These crooks undercut us with substandard ones. They seem to wield protection from government’ said one of the wholesalers in Eldoret.
All major 20 manufacturers and importers (Chinese) of binding wire do not brand them. Accordingly, it is difficult to trace the actual company.
An expert from the industry proposes that KEBS should come up with standards allowing binding wire to be sold in kilos (and not rolls) as most end-users buy in kilos or smaller volumes.
‘What is Cofek doing to put sufficient pressure on KEBS to avoid the public relations raids where money changes hands and its’ business as usual? Ask EACC to be involved – to undertake lifestyle audits on KEBS market surveillance teams as well as ensuring proper documentation and destruction of seized steel and wire products’, he added.
‘There is rising impunity among steel manufacturers. Under-cutting each other is becoming a norm rather than an exception. Most of them are importers masquerading as manufacturers. We need level playing field’ another source – this time in anonymous note – added
Based on these complaints, Cofek will be writing to the State Department of Industrialization seeking to be involved in the inspection and or raids on suspicious 5 companies to ascertain the extent of the problem.
KEBS has been seizing steel sections manufactured by various companies without branding. Once in the market, it is never easy to trace such shady manufacturers.
In addition to the risk of collapsing buildings, consumers are faced with severe exploitation on high prices against under-weight, smaller width or shorter length of steel and wire products – including even shorter barbed wires.
KEBS must police the steel sectors with a view of achieving a level playing field.