Public secretaries eye CAK approval in price fixing bid

Public secretaries during a past conference. PHOTO | FILE
Public secretaries during a past conference. PHOTO | FILE 

Public secretaries face a tough regulatory battle as they become the latest group of professionals to seek approval to set minimum prices for certain classes of their services.

A notice from the Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) says that the Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya (ICPSK) wants exemption from the existing law in order to be able to fix fees for governance audit services.

Under the proposal, the institute would set out guidelines on how much members can charge clients for governance audit services for the next 10 years based on an assessment of “fair professional fees for each subsector of the economy”.

All certified public secretaries providing these services would be required to stick to the fee guidelines set up by the Institute.

However, given that such actions amount to price fixing, the institute needs approval from the government before it can go ahead.

“Issuance of fee guidelines if not exempted would constitute a breach of Section 21 of the Competition Act,” said the notice from CAK director-general Wang’ombe Kariuki.

Publicly listed and Statecorporations are required to undertake annual audits, which assess if they have stuck to corporate governance policies. The institute trains and accredits its members to carry out such audits.

The ICPSK will be facing an uphill battle as it seeks the approval. In November last year, the CAK rejected a similar application from the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya. 

The accountants had sought to be exempted from competition rules and to be allowed to set minimum professional fees.

In its decision, the CAK said the accountants did not sufficiently demonstrate how minimum fees would improve professionalism in the sector or protect consumers from high prices.

Further, the CAK argued that allowing accountants to set minimum prices would set a precedent for other professionals to follow this route.

The CAK has also previously locked horns with lawyers over their remuneration guidelines, opposing a 2013 review of legal fees.

The legal fees took effect in 2014 and the CAK has previously said this resulted in higher prices for legal work.