Second-generation alcohol manufacturers to be vetted afresh as government suspends licences

Kithure Kindiki

Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The government on Wednesday suspended licences of second-generation alcohol manufacturers and distillers pending fresh vetting.

The suspended licences include those issued by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki said all existing valid licences will be re-examined within three weeks.

"All licences are suspended with immediate effect.  All existing valid licences will be re-examined within twenty-one (21) days of this directive, and premises will not be allowed to resume operations until they have been re-examined," said Prof Kindiki.

The fight against illicit brewing across the country is being spearheaded by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Prof Kindiki has also asked all licensed manufacturers and distillers to attend a meeting to be held at the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday, 12 March 2024. The meeting will start at 10am.

In order to obtain a new license, they should have quality control laboratories with gas chromatography (GC) and flame ionisation detector (FID).

He said the system should be operated by competent laboratory analysts whose main responsibility will be to test incoming raw materials and finished products before they are released into the market.

"The laboratories should register with an inter-laboratory comparison provider and submit their QC results to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) on a monthly basis," the CS said.

In addition, all alcohol producers should ensure that they identify and document all traders in their distribution chain and have procedures in place to ensure full traceability from the factory to the consumer of the product.

He also directed KEBS to ensure that all industrial ethanol is denatured or marked with a denaturing agent (denatonium benzoate) within 45 days to prevent diversion and/or inadvertent use of industrial ethanol in alcohol production.

Prof Kindiki said all licences currently being issued by county governments to bars and other outlets and premises that may contravene the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Act have also been declared null and void.

He directed the District Security Teams to ensure that such premises are closed down with immediate effect.

The CS said that no bar or alcoholic beverage outlet would be allowed to operate beyond the stipulated operating hours as provided for in Section 34 of the Alcoholic Beverages Control Act.

"If any bar or alcoholic outlet is found to be operating outside the stipulated hours, the operators shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment as provided by law and all beverages and related accessories in the premises shall be confiscated with the concomitant revocation of the licence," he said.

According to the CS, any manufacturer who is aware of counterfeits of their products and fails to report them to the Anti-Counterfeiting Authority (ACA) will be considered complicit.

He said licensed manufacturers will be required to provide district security teams with the geo-location and physical details of their licensed premises, as well as stock records per licensed premises.

"Any other physical premises storing, manufacturing and housing manufactured stock will be considered illegal stock for destruction," he said.

He also warned any law enforcers found abetting any offence that stern action would be taken against them.

In addition, the CS reminded all officers in the enforcement chain, which includes those working in the KRA, KEBS, ACA, Public Health and NACADA, not to own and operate a bar, either directly or by proxy.

"All public officers currently operating such premises are required to close them down or resign from the service with immediate effect. A cross-check of the records of the Public Service Commission, the National Police Service Commission and the various agencies will be undertaken to ensure compliance," he said.

He said action would also be taken against all landlords or those who own premises that are fond of facilitating dubious deals, who would be held liable for renting out space for the establishment of bars and liquor outlets.

"All vehicles/buildings used for storage, production and trafficking of illicit drugs, illicit brews and alcohol shall be seized in accordance with Section 74 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act and shall be considered government property," Prof Kindiki said.

The CS said it would put in place measures for branding and colour specification of all alcohol and tobacco distribution vehicles to operate from 6am to 6pm.

"The guidelines will be issued within 14 days of this directive, with manufacturers expected to ensure full implementation within 45 days," Prof Kindiki said.

In a move seen as a way of dealing with those fond of illegally importing ethanol and alcohol brands, the government said a multi-agency framework had already been put in place on how to deal with them.

The CS was very specific on the borders of Namanga, Isebania, Moyale and Isiolo, which he said would be vetted by officers from all stakeholders working there.

"To enforce compliance on packaging as per the Alcoholic Beverages Control Act, KEBS shall within 60 days review the guidelines on minimum quantity of alcoholic beverages to increase the same from 250ml to 750ml or above," he said.

He reiterated that the importation, manufacture, sale, use, advertisement, promotion or distribution of shisha is prohibited in the country.

According to him, any establishment found in violation of this provision will be shut down with immediate effect.