Nairobi losing billions to garbage collection gangs

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 13:52 | By

Nairobi’s waste management sector is rife with corruption and continues to be infiltrated by criminal gangs, a new report by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) shows.

It says that all stages of the waste processing including the award of contracts, collection of waste from households and dumping of waste at the Dandora dumpsite are infiltrated by corruption, with a huge chunk of the business controlled by criminal gangs.

“Procurement in the waste-management sector is fraught with so many irregularities. And this has been going on for decades on end, and keeps defying every change in the leadership at City Hall,” adds the report.

“The corrupt way in which waste is managed in Nairobi has sapped the county of resources to provide waste-removal services and left neighbourhoods to be extorted by criminal service providers,” it adds.

The GI-TOC report says fraud and lack of oversight that accompanies the criminalisation of the waste-management sector is so severe that Nairobi County does not know how much rubbish it actually produces with some, saying it is 2,500 tonnes of rubbish per day while others say it is 3,500 tonnes.

“The level of procurement irregularity such as double-invoicing, and the proliferation of illegal an unofficial dumpsites, the dysfunctional weighbridge and the fines levied by gangs makes exact estimates nearly impossible,” it says.

According to the report, Nairobi County government collects only a portion of the waste, outsourcing the rest to private collectors and other state companies.

The private collectors make about Sh5.4 billion a year collecting garbage from approximately 900,000 households charging an average of Sh500 per household every month.

“The waste-management sector is vulnerable to criminal exploitation because it can offer high profit margins at low risk of getting caught for involvement in illegal activities, particularly as the main regulatory agencies involved in the sector are generally not part of the criminal justice system,” the report says.

Asking questions People in the know, according to report, fear asking questions on the matter for fear of being eliminated by the gangs involved, a situation that has seen the county government continue to lose millions in revenue every month.

Nairobi has seen rapid urban growth over the past 30 years. Over that time, waste production has grown massively while political developments paved the way for violent actors to enter the waste sector.

The austerity measures of the 1990s resulted in the City Council (now City County) retreating from service provision resulting in the informalisation of the economy and the entry of private actors into urban service provision. This increased competition for clients and control, in some instances becoming violent.

According to the GI-TOC report, gangs and other groups have in some cases become wealthy through providing informal services or taxing residents for services that the state has failed to provide such as transport, waste removal, electricity and water provision.

“The failure to deal with white collar forms of corruption in the city administration also allowed corrupt political actors to operate with impunity,” it says.

Last week, KenGen announced that an earlier plan to set up a waste energy plant at the Dandora dumpsite have been put on hold to allow a feasibility study to be conducted.

Earlier this month, Nairobi Metropolitan services introduced sweeper machines in Nairobi Central Business District replaced human sweepers who will be re-deployed elsewhere within the city

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