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Role of the Company Secretary in Environmental Compliance in Kenya

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By Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD (Leading Environmental Law Scholar, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Lawyer and Dispute Resolution Expert from Kenya), Winner of Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021*

As more and more statutes impose environmental compliance requirements on corporate organizations, the role of the Company Secretary in ensuring environmental compliance in Kenya has become important. It is there necessary to examine the environmental compliance responsibilities of the company secretary as imposed by the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), Act No. 8 of 1999 and other statutes in Kenya as questions on what is exactly required of a company to ensure environmental compliance under the Kenyan Law are going to come before the Company Secretary.  In determining the role of the company secretary relative to environmental compliance, it is necessary to look at the requirements imposed on companies and how the Company Secretary fits into the picture.

In recent years the world has experienced awareness in the area of environmentalism. More than ever, stakeholders want companies to reduce pollution, engage in cleaner production, conserve the environment and generally engage in environmentally responsible corporate behaviour. Some companies have even gone to the extent of incorporating environmental goals into their vision and mission statements. Ideas such as conservation, pollution control, recycling waste, public awareness and education, use of cleaner fuels and the use of Environmental Impact Assessment and Audits have found their way into the management principles of corporations.

The Company Secretary as the member of the management who generally oversees compliance and governance finds herself engaged in environmental issues at both policy and operational levels. In some instance, the very survival of the corporate body even hinges on how environmental issues are handled. For instance, the High Court stopped the 60MW Kinangop Wind Power Project after area residents went to court to complain about lack of public participation in carrying out the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Project. The Company launched a Ksh. 31 billion (US 311,649,022 million) claim in international arbitration for damages incurred which was thrown out. There is no question the fortunes of the company would have turned up differently had the company secretary of the Company insisted on environmental compliance to the letter.

In some instances, the Company Secretary may even find herself engaged in issues of environmental compliance as a matter of law. There is thus a need for knowledge of what the law requires in this regard. Environmental Compliance refers to, among other things, the adherence to environmental law and all regulations and guidelines promulgated by the government and other public bodies. It may also refer to carrying out practices that serve to conserve the environment, reduce pollution and generally take into account the health and safety of human beings even where regulation is lacking. This is compliance at the moral /ethical level.

In Kenya it is usual for a person to first become aware of a law when the penal sanctions of that law catch up with him/her. Company Secretaries should therefore avoid this by noting that under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act when an offence under the Act is committed by a body corporate, the body Corporate and every director or officer of the body corporate who had knowledge of the commission of the offence and who did not exercise due diligence, efficiency and economy to ensure compliance with this Act shall be guilty of an offence. In the ongoing Arror and Kimwarer case, an alleged misleading EIA report implicated many including the NEMA Director General.

A Company Secretary is increasingly being viewed as the officer of the company responsible for environmental compliance. As a matter of fact, the law imposes a duty on the Company Secretary to ensure compliance with environmental law, rules and regulations on behalf of the Company. The penalties under EMCA are harsh and can include imprisonment and fines that ran into hundreds of thousands of shillings. Offences under EMCA relate among other things, failing to submit to inspection, offences relating to Environmental Impact Assessment; offences relating to records; offences relating to standards; offences relating to hazardous waste; offences relating to pollution; and offences relating to restoration orders.

The Act imports personal liability even where the offence complained of was committed on account of another person (corporate body). It is thus possible for a Company Secretary to be personally liable for environmental offences committed by the Company. As such, it suffices to say that the role of the Company Secretary in Environmental Compliance is a statutory one, it is not a matter of choice. A Company Secretary as an officer of the company must then logically ensure that where an Environmental Impact Assessment is prepared as required in accordance with and in compliance with the law. An Environmental Impact Assessment means a systematic examination conducted to determine whether or not a programme, activity or project will have any adverse impact on the environment.

Similarly, where an Environmental Audit is required to be carried out the Company Secretary should ensure that it is prepared in accordance with the requirements of EMCA or the regulations made thereunder. It follows also that the Company Secretary being an Officer of the Company has a duty to ensure compliance with standards set out under EMCA. If he/she does not do so then liability in criminal law attaches. The Company Secretary is also bound to ensure that hazardous waste and other chemicals and radioactive materials are handled properly. If the company is charged with an offence relating to hazardous wastes and other radioactive substances then the Company Secretary as an officer of the Company becomes liable in criminal law and may end up paying a fine of not less than one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years or both.

Further, EMCA creates offences relating to pollution of the environment. Thus, if a company discharges any dangerous materials, substances, oil, oil mixtures into land, water, air or aquatic environment with the result effect of polluting the environment, this attracts heavy penalties which include paying the cost of removing the pollution. Again if the company commits any of the abovementioned offences then the Company Secretary being an officer of the company incurs liability in civil and criminal law. It is discernible from the above that a Company Secretary has a big role to play in Environmental compliance. Given that the Company Secretary of today is considered part of the “mind” of the Company and a key policy maker, it is increasingly becoming difficult to argue that he/she was not aware of the legal requirement for Environmental compliance.

Sometimes environmental compliance measures take the form of fiscal incentives and disincentives rather than punishments. EMCA provides for tax and fiscal incentives, disincentives or fees which include customs and excise waiver in respect of imported capital goods which prevent or substantially reduce environmental degradation caused by an undertaking; tax rebates to industries or other establishments that invest in plants, equipment or machinery for pollution control, recycling of wastes, water harvesting and conservation, prevention of floods and using other energy resources as substitutes for hydrocarbons, tax disincentives to deter bad environmental behaviour that leads to depletion of environmental resources or that cause pollution; user fees to ensure that those who use the environmental resources pay proper value for the utilization of such resources.

The Company Secretary who is involved in strategic planning within the organization can influence planning on environmental matters so that the company embraces measures aimed at cleaner production, pollution, control, recycling of wastes, water harvesting and the use of cleaner energy resources in place of hydrocarbons. The Company Secretary can also take part in environmental awareness campaigns that corporations launch once in a while. A Company Secretary who is familiar with the environmental compliance regulations and believes in the need to conserve the environment and reduce pollution has a role to play in public education in ensuring that the public appreciates the importance of a clean and healthy environment.

Attendance and contribution at seminars by the Company Secretary may also serve to disseminate environmental education both within the company and to the communities which may be affected by the activities of the company. Often, the Company Secretary will also be involved in the drafting of agreements on environmental codes reached as a result of meetings between stakeholders within a given industry. These could be agreements on setting of environmental standards or joint cooperation with the aim of keeping the environment clean. Knowledge of environmental regulations requirements, penalties and compliance measures, thus, come in handy for the Company Secretary.

EMCA provides that every Kenyan is entitled to a clean and healthy environment and has a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment. The duty to safeguard and enhance the environment is a statutory duty which binds the Company Secretary as well. The Company Secretary should take part in “sustainable development” this being the development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability to use the same by future generations. The Company Secretary lives and works within the environment. The air we breathe, the land we walk on, the water we use, the climate, sound, aesthetics and all our surroundings form what is called the environment. We all have a duty to protect, safeguard and enhance the environment. Compliance with all regulations and initiation of measures to conserve the environment is part of the duty of the Company Secretary and indeed all Kenyans.

*This is article is an extract from an article by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD,Kenya’s ADR Practitioner of the Year 2021 (Nairobi Legal Awards): Muigua, K., Role of the Company Secretary In Environmental Compliance, http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2018/ 08/078_ROLE-OF-THE-C-S-IN-ENVIRONMENTAL-COMPLIANCE.pdf. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is Kenya’s foremost Environmental Law and Natural Resources Lawyer and Scholar, Sustainable Development Advocate and Conflict Management Expert. Dr. Kariuki Muigua is a Senior Lecturer of Environmental Law and Dispute resolution at the University of Nairobi School of Law and The Center for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and Policy (CASELAP). He has published numerous books and articles on Environmental Law, Environmental Justice Conflict Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Sustainable Development. Dr. Muigua is also a Chartered Arbitrator, an Accredited Mediator, the Africa Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Managing Partner of Kariuki Muigua & Co. Advocates. Dr. Muigua is recognized as one of the leading lawyers and dispute resolution experts by the Chambers Global Guide 2021. 

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Former KCB Company Secretary Sues Over Unlawful Dismissal

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Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania who has sued the Bank for Unlawful Dismissal

Former KCB Group Company Secretary Joseph Kamau Kania has sued the lender seeking reinstatement or be compensated for illegal sacking almost three years ago. Lawyer Kania was the KCB Group company secretary until restructuring of the lender in 2021 that saw some senior executives dropped.

Through the firm of Senior Counsel Wilfred Nderitu, Kamau wants the court to order KCB Group to unconditionally reinstate him to employment without altering any of the contractual terms until his retirement in December 2025.

In his court documents filed before Employment and Labour Relations Court, the career law banker seeks the court to declare the reorganization of the company structure a nullity and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution. He further wants the court to declare that the position of Group Company Secretary did not at any time cease to exist within the KCB Group structure.

He further urged the Employment Court to declare that the recruitment and appointment of Bonnie Okumu, his former assistant, as the Group Company Secretary, in relation to the contemporaneous termination of his employment, was unprocedural, insufficient and inappropriate to infer a lawful termination of his employment.

“A declaration that the factual and legal circumstances of the Petitioner’s termination of employment were insufficient and inappropriate to infer a redundancy against him, and that any redundancy declared by the KCB Group in relation to him was therefore null, void and of no legal effect and amounted to a violation of his fundamental right to fair labour practices as guaranteed in Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau says he was subjected to discriminatory practices by the KCB Bank Group in violation of his fundamental right to equality and freedom from discrimination as guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution and the termination of his employment was unfair, unjustified, illegal, null and void.

Lawyer Kamau further seeks the court to declare that the Non-Compete Clause in the 2016 Contract is unenforceable by the KCB Group as against him and is voidable by him as against the Bank ab initio, byreason of the termination of the Petitioner’s employment having been a violation of Articles 41(1) and 47(1) and (2) of the Constitution, and of the Employment Act.

He also wants the Employment Court to find that finding that KCB’s group legal representation by Messrs of Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates law firm in respect of his claim for unlawful termination of employment resulted in a clear conflict of interest by reason of the fact that a Founding and Senior Partner at the said firm lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga is also the Chairman of the CBK’s Board of Directors.

“A Declaration that the circumstances of KCB’s legal representation by Messrs. Mohammed Muigai LLP Advocates resulted in a violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to have the employment dispute decided independently and impartially, as guaranteed in Article 50(1) of the Constitution,” seeks lawyer Kamau.

Kamau is seeking damages against both KCB Group and Central Bank of Kenya jointly and severally for the violation of his constitutional and fundamental right to fair labour practices.

He wants  further wants court to declare that CBK is liable to petitioner on account of its breach of statutory duty to effectively regulate KCB Group to ensure that KCB complied with the Central Bank of Kenya Prudential Guidelines and all other Laws, Rules, Codes and Standards, and that, as an issuer of securities, it complied with capital markets legislation.

Kamau through his lawyer Nderitu told the court that he was involved in Shareholder engagement in introducing the Group aide-mémoire that significantly improved the management of the Annual General Meetings, including obtaining approval without voting through the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Kenya Commercial Bank Limited among others.

He said that during his employment at KCB Bank Kenya and with the KCB Group, he initially worked well with former KCB CEO Joseph Oigara until 2016 when the CEO allegedly started sidelining him by removing the legal function from his reporting line.

He further claims he was transferred from the Group’s offices at Kencom House to its offices Upper Hill under the guise that the Petitioner was merely to support the KCB Group Board.

He adds that at that point his roles were given to Okumu for reasons that were not related to work demands.  He stated that Oigara at one time proposed that he should leave his role in the KCB Group and go and serve as the Company Secretary of the National Bank of Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the Group, a suggestion which he disagreed with to Oigara’s utter annoyance.

Kamau stated that his work was thenceforth unfairly discredited, leading to his being taken through a disciplinary process whose intended outcome failed miserably, and the Petitioner was vindicated.

“More specifically, the Petitioner contends that the purported creation of a new organizational structure towards the end of 2020 was in fact Oigara’s orchestration targeted to remove certain individuals by requiring them to undergo interviews in the pretext that new roles were created, and amounted to a further violation of the Petitioner’s fundamental right to fair labour practices under Article 41(1) of the Constitution,” said in his court documents.

He further adds that this sham reorganization demonstrates how the role of the KCB Group Company Secretary purportedly ceased to be and was then very briefly replaced with a new role of the KCB Group General Counsel. The role of KCB Group Company Secretary then ‘resurfaced’ immediately thereafter, in total violation of legal and regulatory requirements.

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Court of Appeal Upholds Eviction of Radcliffes from Karen Land

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Adrian Radcliffe, the Expatriate Squatter, Evicted from Karen Property by Innocent Purchaser for Value

The Court of Appeal has stayed the decision of the Environment and Land Court purporting to reinstate Adrian Radcliffe into possession of the 5.7 Acre Karen Land by Kena Properties Ltd after eviction by the lawful owners in February 2022. Adrian Radcliffe who was evicted by Kena Properties Ltd, the innocent purchaser of the Land for value.

Before his eviction, Mr. Radcliffe had been living on the land as a squatter expatriate for 33 years without paying any rent. Since he moved into the property as a tenant, he only paid deposit for the land in August 1989 despite corresponding severally with the owner of the land. His attempt to acquire the land by adverse possession claim filed in 2005 was dismissed by Court in 2011 on the basis that he has engaged with the owner of the land July 1997 and agreed to buy the land which he failed to do. The High Court [Justice Kalpana Rawal as she then was] concluded that:

“His [Mr. Adrian Radcliffe] averments that he did not have any idea of the whereabouts of the Defendant and that he could possibly be not alive, were not only very sad but mala fide in view of the correspondence on record addressed by him to the Defendant’s wife. I would thus find that the averments made by him to the contrary are untrue looking to the facts of this case.”

On 10th March 2022, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe and Family purported to obtain court orders for reinstatement into the land. However, the Court of Appeal issued an interim stay of execution of the said orders. The Court of Appeal has now granted the application of Kena Properties Ltd and stayed the execution of the Environment and Land Court Order pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal.

The Court also stayed the proceedings at the Environment and Land Court on the matter during the pendency of the Appeal. In effect, the eviction orders issued by the Chief Magistrate Court for eviction of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe in favour of Kena Properties as the purchaser of the property for value were upheld and the company now enjoys unfettered ownership and possession of the suit property until the conclusion of the Appeal.

The Court of Appeal in granting the orders sought by Kena Properties Ltd concurred with Kena Properties Ltd that as the property owner it had an arguable appeal with a high probability of success which would be rendered nugatory if Adrian Radcliffe a trespasser was to resume his unlawful possession of the suit property, erect structures thereon, recklessly use or abuse the said suit property as he deems fit. In any case, that is bound to fundamentally alter the state of the suit property and render it unusable by Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner.

At the same time, the Appellate Court rubbished the argument of Adrian Radcliffe in opposition to the application for stay that he has been in occupation of the suit property for more than 30 years and that he and his family were unlawfully evicted from the suit property on 4th February, 2022. The Court also rejected Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties Ltd has no valid title to the suit property and held that as the purchaser, the company was entitled to enjoy ownership and possession of their property during the pendency of the appeal.

The Court dismissed claims of Mr. Adrian Radcliffe that Kena Properties Ltd as the property owner acquired title to the suit property illegally and unprocedurally finding to the contrary. Further, it rejected Adrian Radcliffe’s claim that Kena Properties as the purchaser cannot evict a legal occupier of a property putting paid to the claim that he was a legal occupier at the time of eviction.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Adrian Radcliffe cannot claim to be the legal occupier of the property having attempted to acquire it by adverse possession before the High Court thwarted his fraudulent scheme on 28th February 2011. Mr. Radcliffe did not appeal the 2011 High Court decision meaning it is still the law that he is not the owner of the land nor the legal occupier of the land having attempted to adversely acquire against the interests of the lawful owner who sold it to Kena Properties.

Mr. Adrian Radcliffe is a well-to-do Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) UNICEF consultant and former UN employee (who has been earning hefty House Allowance). Many have wondered why he has been defaulting in paying rent for 33 years on the prime plot of land in Karen while living large and taking his kids to most expensive schools in Kenya. No question, a local Kenyan could never have gotten away with such selfish impunity.

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Review: Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9, No. 1

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The Journal of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development, Volume 9, Issue No. 1, which is edited by and published by Dr. Kariuki Muigua, PhD is out and stays true to the reputation of the journal in providing a platform for scholarly debate on thematic areas in the fields of Conflict Management and Sustainable Development. The current issue published in September 2022 covers diverse topics including Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in Africa; National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya; Protection of Cultural Heritage During War; The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya; Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya; Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation; Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World; Status of Participation of Women in Mediation; Business of Climate Change and Critical Analysis of World Trade Organization’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment.

Dr. Wilfred A. Mutubwa and Eunice Njeri Ng’ang’a in “Resolving Oil and Gas Disputes in an Integrating Africa: An Appraisal of the Role of Regional Arbitration Centres” explore the nature of disputes in the realm of oil and gas in Africa taking a look into the recent continental and sub-regional developments in a bid to establish regional integration. Additionally, it tests the limits of intra-African trade and dispute resolution and the imperatives for the African regional courts and arbitration centres. In “National Environment Tribunal, Sustainable Development and Access to Justice in Kenya,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua discusses the role played by the National Environment Tribunal (NET) in promoting access to justice and enhancing the principles of sustainable development in Kenya. The paper also highlights challenges facing the tribunal and proposes recommendations towards enhancing the effectiveness of the tribunal.

Dr. Kenneth Wyne Mutuma in “Protecting Cultural Heritage in Times of War: A Case for History,” argues that cultural heritage is at the heart of human existence and its preservation even in times of war is sacrosanct. It concludes that it is thus critical for states to take positive and tangible steps to ensure environmental conservation and protection during war within the ambit of the existing international legal framework. In “The Role of Water in the attainment of Sustainable Development in Kenya,” Jack Shivugu critically evaluates the role of water in the attainment of sustainable development in Kenya and argues water plays a critical role in the attainment of the sustainable development goals both in Kenya and at the global stage. The paper interrogates some of the water and Sustainable Development concerns in Kenya including water pollution, water scarcity and climate change and suggests practical ways to enhance the role of water in the Sustainable Development agenda.

Dr. Paul Ogendi in “Collective Property Rights in Human Biological Materials in Kenya,” reflects on property rights in relation to human biological materials obtained from research participants participating in genomic research. He argues that property rights are crucial in genomic research because they can help avoid exploitation or abuse of such precious material by researchers. In “Nurturing our Wetlands for Biodiversity Conservation,” Dr. Kariuki Muigua notes that Wetlands have a vital role in not just delivering ecological services to meet human needs, but also in biodiversity conservation. Wetlands are vital habitat sites for many species and a source of water, both of which contribute to biodiversity protection. The paper examines the role of wetlands in biodiversity conservation and how these wetland resources might be managed to improve biodiversity conservation.

Oseko Louis D. Obure in “Investor-State Dispute Resolution in a Fast-Paced World,” preponderance of disputes between States or States and Investors created need for a robust, effective, and efficient mechanisms not only for the resolution of these disputes but also their prevention. He notes that developing states lead in being parties to Investor-State Disputes (ISD) particularly as respondents. He proceeds to conceptualize and problematize investor-state disputes resolution in a fast-paced world. Lilian N.S. Kong’ani and Dr. Kariuki Muigua in “Status of Participation of Women in Mediation: A case Study of Development Project Conflict in Olkaria IV, Kenya” review the status of participation of women in mediation to resolve conflicts between KenGen and the community. The paper demonstrates a need for further democratization of the mediation processes to cater for more participation of women to enhance the mediation results and offer more sustainable resolutions.

Felix Otieno Odhiambo and Melinda Lorenda Mueni in “The Business of Climate Change: An Analysis of Carbon Trading in Kenya analyses the business of carbon trading in the context of Kenya’s legal framework. The article examines the legal framework that underpins climate change into the Kenyan legal system and provides an exposition of the concept of carbon trading and its various forms. Michael Okello, in “Critical Analysis of World Trade Organisation’s Most-Favored Nation (MFN) Treatment: Prospects, Challenges and Emerging Trends in the 21st Century,” highlights the rationale behind MFN treatment and also restates the vision of multilateral trade to achieve equitable and special interventions with respect to trade in goods, services and trade related intellectual property rights in the affected states.

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