The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has been ordered to pay an importer Sh15 million as general damages for illegal detention of the company’s 10,327 metric tonnes of rice.
Justice Eric Ogola also directed that Phoenix Global Kenya's Sh250 million rice being held at a warehouse in Mombasa by a government multi-agency team be released immediately.
“The Kenya Revenue Authority, Director of Criminal Investigations and Kebs are hereby ordered to forthwith open the warehouse and handover to the petitioner (Phoenix) the said consignment of rice,” said Justice Ogola.
Phoenix Global sued the multi-agency team saying it had unjustifiably denied it access to the warehouse where its consignments are stored on allegations that the rice was substandard.
The team — which consists of the Attorney General, KRA, Kebs, Anti-Counterfeit Agency and the DCI — was established by the government to crack down on contraband.
Justice Ogola said it was the duty of Kebs to ensure that goods that enter the country are properly verified and that it is its report that enables other agencies including KRA to act.
“Kebs failed to recognise the results of verification (of the rice) from its own contacted agents. It has not sacked or complained to those agents,” said Justice Ogola.
The judge ruled that Kebs had not behaved like a professional body on whose shoulder lies the national health of Kenyans.
“At one time it accepts verification report, when it is convenient it denies the same. How will Kenyans believe this statutory body when it changes its decisions like a chameleon changing its colours?” Posed Justice Ogola.
He said Kebs had no option but to act professionally and that its officers must do the job they are paid for, failure to which they must be prepared to individually answer for their negligence.
“I am satisfied that the blame in this petition must fall solely on Kebs,” said Justice Ogola.