The saga involving First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy Agency that has been linked to a job scam has taken another twist with the government saying the agency is not registered.
The revelations emerged during a Senate Labour committee on Wednesday where Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore said the Judy Chepchirchir-led agency is not appearing in the registration database of the National Employment Authority (NEA).
“We have not registered the company and the company is not uploaded on NEA website,” said Ms Bore.
Senators urged the government to put out an advert stopping the agency from operating in the country as the MPs questioned the powerful individual behind Ms Chepchirchir, who they described as arrogant, full of herself and a clear definition of impunity.
The Eldoret-based recruitment agency is dogged by controversy, being accused of swindling desperate jobless Kenyans millions of shillings to airlift hundreds of young Kenyans to ‘live, work and study’ in various countries abroad.
Ms Bore told the committee that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is seized of the matter but she is ready to mediate between Ms Chepchirchir and the victims who claim to have been conned millions of shillings in payments they made to go study abroad.
This is after one of the victims told the committee that she paid the agency Sh437,000 to study in Poland, an offer that never materialised.
“I want to find a way of how the victims can be refunded their money. Sh437,000 is a lot of money. Allow me to handle the two parties,” the CS said.
However, the victims, through the lead petitioner and Eldoret-based human rights activist Mr Kimutai Kirui, declined the offer by Ms Bore to mediate accusing her of being conflicted.
They claimed the CS has been seen in several public functions with Ms Chepchirchir hence they do not have confidence in her being a neutral arbiter.
“Allowing Ms Bore to mediate with Ms Chepchirchir is akin to handing the victims to the jaws of a hungry lioness,” said Mr Kirui. “Judy is not willing to pay the petitioners their money. The petitioners want their money back. They want justice.”
Nonetheless, CS Bore, while admitting to having attended a public function with Ms Chepchirchir, defended herself, saying she has no powers to bar anybody from attending a public function with her.
She pointed out that her ministry is working on a legal framework that will punish rogue recruitment agencies.
“We have a Labour Migration Management Bill currently at the Attorney General’s office. This bill will protect future job seekers. We want to protect job seekers,” said Ms Bore.
But the senators questioned why despite numerous reports to the police about the dealings of Ms Chepchirchir she has not been arrested and arraigned and is behaving like someone above the law.
Embu Senator Alexander Mundigi also asked why Ms Chepchirchir has been roaming freely without any action being taken against her yet there are several reports showing that she has committed crimes, especially against innocent Kenyans who wanted to fly abroad for further studies in Finland and Poland.
“We saw you going with the director First Choice in various public functions. This lady is arrogant and has committed crimes. She ought to have been arrested and charged in a court of law,” said Mr Mundigi.
Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba claimed there is evidence that the recruitment agency is still operating even after the suspension.
“The company is being seen to be given room to do what they want. The director has been going around intimidating the victims. We are dealing with a rogue client, very arrogant and someone who believes she can run all the government agencies,” said Nominated Senator George Mbugua.
Nominated Senator Miraj Abdillahi questioned the relationship between the CS and Ms Chepchirchir, adding that she appears to have connections and network to an extent that she is untouchable.
“What is your relationship with the director? She has connections and network [such] that she cannot be touched. She has even made allegations that she has bribed us and that there is nothing that can be done to her,” said Ms Abdillahi.