The National Treasury has been thrust into a vicious war with the administrator of its electronics payments platform eCitizen, which now threatens to stall services offered through the World Bank-backed online portal.
Goldrock Capital Limited, which runs e-Citizen’s mobile money payment account, has sued the National Treasury for denying it access to the platform’s M-Pesa paybill number that receives billions of shillings from individuals seeking government services through the online portal.
The eCitizen portal was developed in 2013 with funding from the World Bank’s private lending arm IFC and other donors.
IT firm Webmasters Africa was contracted to develop the portal, while Goldrock was subcontracted to develop a non-cash payment system for the project.
Several ministries, counties and government agencies like the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) offer services through eCitizen, where service fees are paid through the M-Pesa paybill number.
A convenience fee of Sh50 is charged for each service. Goldrock, which says in court filings that it collected Sh5.6 billion between November 2014 and April 2016, now claims that the National Treasury wants to forcefully take control of the M-Pesa account despite the provisions of a contract it has to operate the account.
Goldrock says that the Treasury last year ordered Safaricom #ticker:SCOM to deny it access to the paybill account it was contracted to run in 2014.
“On July 26, 2016 the Treasury instructed Safaricom to deny Goldrock access to convenience fees. On April 28, 2017 Webmasters Africa purported to instruct Goldrock to surrender its paybill number 206206 and all related privileges to the Treasury’s agents,” Goldrock says in court papers adding that Safaricom, on April 29, 2017 without any prior notice or consultation, withdrew its rights and privileges and denied it access to paybill number 206206.
Goldrock, which has enjoined Safaricom and Webmasters as interested parties in the suit, also claims that Webmasters in April this year ordered Goldrock to surrender the paybill number and all its privileges.
Neither Safaricom, Webmasters nor the Treasury have responded to the suit.
Justice Francis Tuiyott has ordered them to respond before July 18 when the suit will be mentioned before him.
Goldrock adds that it is owed Sh127.8 million for the money collection services provided for the eCitizen portal, an amount that continues to grow as more people pay for government services.
Justice Tuiyott yesterday extended a court order preserving Sh127.8 million in the paybill number until he has heard the case.
The suit has for the first time revealed the recipients of the Sh50 paid for each transaction on the eCitizen platform. Part of Goldrock’s mandate is to withhold payment to itself and Webmasters for handling the payment system.
Goldrock’s ownership is not revealed in court documents but the firm’s CEO Sidney Ngunyi Wachira has sworn witness statements on its behalf.
The firm wants the Treasury blocked from taking over the 206206 M-Pesa paybill number.