Salt companies on the spot over illegal mining

The public Accounts committee of Parliament has begun probing four salt firms in Kilifi county which are allegedly operating illegally without mining and export permits which is costing the government millions of shillings in form of taxes. The companies include Kensalt Malindi salt Krystaline salt, and Kurawa Industries have were required to obtain export permits for any consignment of salt since the mining act of 2016 came into force but majority are yet to comply. Section 171 of the Mining Act of 2016, provides that exporting a mineral is only authorized by an export permit granted by the Cabinet secretary in charge.

They today visited all the salt firms in Magarini sub-county together with the Auditor General and officials from the Mining Ministry so as to find out whether they are complying with the new mining law which was put in place in 2017. The PAC of parliament led by Vice Chairperson Jessica Nduku together with Magarini Member of Parliament Michael Kingi who is a member of the committee and other members visited the salt firms one by one and engaged the management to know whether they have complied or not.

They put the managers into task and gave them one week to supply all the necessary documents they have before the committee issues its recommendations. It however emerged that majority have not obtained the Mining or export licenses and are still paying at the Ministry of Lands instead of Ministry of Mining as per the act states. Salt firm officials said the mining act when formulated did not consider engaging them so as to have their input in it that’s why they want the law changed. Nduku said they came to check the salt firms to make follow up on many issues and most importantly the expenditure funds together with the auditor general.

She said their visit is as a result of issues raised by the Auditor general about the companies that the companies were not paying royalties to the government. Nduku said they established that there was public participation and the management had employed locals in their companies. She emphasized that the companies must continue employing the locals so that they can benefit from the investments in the area. “If there is a need to change the Mining laws they should first pass through public participation, take it to the Member of parliament who are representatives  to take them for amendment in parliament,” she said. Concerning the act, it will make it clear whether they would continue paying to the Lands Ministry or the Mining Ministry once it is amended.

She said the aim of going to the salt firms with the auditor general were to confirm if the companies were complying so that they put them in their report. “Issues were remittance of royalties, paying of taxes we need to know where the taxes go ,’ she said. On his part the Magarini legislator said the pertinent issue he observed is that salt companies have distanced themselves from the political leadership. He said the controversy surrounding the mining act could have been resolved easily and cheaply through parliament instead of them seeking justice through court which will take time and cost them a lot of money. “Had they engaged the political leadership it couldn’t have brought these pull and push, I think the matter has taken time to comply because there was not one to advise them,” he said.

As per the Mining act, he said they are supposed to pay to the Ministry of Mining but they are paying the Ministry of lands which is contravening the act. Kingi said had they c0onsulted him they would have sat down and taken a petition in parliament and they would be heard. “Go to court after exhausting all avenues but the easier one is to go for the less costly process such as taking a petition in parliament to get the solution,” he said. The legislator called on all salt firms to cooperate with him and ensure such matters are resolved amicably in future.