Please help us: Keroche boss Tabitha Karanja pleads with Uhuru after company closure

Friday, March 4th, 2022 18:37 | By
Tabitha Karanja. PHOTO/COURTESY

Kereche Breweries Limited CEO Tabitha Karanja has opened up about the woes facing her company, a month after its Naivasha-based factory was closed down by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

In a statement on Friday, Karanja said that the company has been facing dwindling fortunes since the onset of the Covid-19, which bedevilled the world’s economy.

The company’s factory was closed in February, after failing to honour an agreement with the taxman in a Ksh9.1 tax battle.

The ground for closure, according to the CEO, was due to outstanding tax arrears of Ksh322 million that accrued from February 2021.

“Failure to be up to date on the payments was explained to KRA as low business leading to poor cashflows that could not fully meet all the cash obligations of the company (taxes, utilities, salaries, suppliers, etc). We subsequently entered into a proposed payment plan with KRA but we could not manage to honour the same due to frequent interruptions by KRA,” she said.

On December 7, 2021, KRA closed the factory and further issued agency notices to 36 banks in Kenya not to give loans to Keroche. As a result, Karanja says that the move completely collapsed all business operations since the company could neither produce sell nor access any financing from any of the banks to assist in settling the arrears.

The matter was solved behind the scenes during the festive period and the company reopened for the festivities on December 22, 2022.

“We requested for 24 monthly instalments based on our financial projections which KRA rejected and insisted on six monthly instalments. We proceeded with their proposal although we knew it was unrealistic since we wanted to have our plant re-opened and we were desperate to take our products in the market during the festive season,” she adds.

“On 22nd December 2021 KRA re-opened, but unfortunately, the earliest our products could reach the market was on 27th December 2021. We only managed to sell for three days till the end of the year but KRA were on our case demanding the arrears according to the payment plan. We remitted Ksh10 million which was available in our accounts then; which to them was insufficient.”

On January 10, the factory was shut again before a series of negotiations saw the facility opened on January 15, 2022.

Karanja, who says she has been unable to get an audience with KRA commissioner General Githii Mburu is now appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and salvage the company, which currently employs over 250 workers directly.

“As we got into 2022, the cases of Covid-19 started going down but the post-Covid-19 effects are being felt harder. The effects are being aggravated by the current political climate as we get closer to the August 2022 general elections,” she says.

“The effects of the pandemic were not only on the loss of lives but serious erosion of the business environment leading to closure of businesses, loss of employment and the attendant income among other effects.”

More on Business