eCitizen developers sues Treasury for denying it access to MPesa paybill number

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Goldrock Capital, the developers of eCitizen portal has sued the Treasury and Webmasters Kenya, for denying it access to the website’s mobile money MPesa paybill number which receives millions of shillings daily from Kenyans applying for government services.

Treasury principal secretary Kamau Thugge in fresh court papers said that the government did not authorise any private firm to receive eCitizen payments on its behalf.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is the primary agency authorised by law to collect revenue on behalf of the government.

Any other agency performing the revenue collection role requires Parliament’s approval or appointment by the Treasury secretary.

eCitizen was developed in 2013 with funding from the World Bank’s private lending arm IFC and other donors. It’s an online portal through which the Kenyan government delivers essential services like applications for passports, driving licenses, business registration certificates, vehicle logbooks, title deeds, certificate of good conduct etc.

eCitizen using their Mpesa Paybill Number has collected over Ksh 5.6 Billion since 2014 through Goldrock.

Dr Thugge now says the Treasury only authorised Webmasters Kenya to train government officials to handle the payment portal therefore any contract claiming to hire another firm for collection of revenue is null and void.

“I am aware that the government has not authorised Goldrock Capital to collect the convenience fee or otherwise derive any remunerative benefit from any transaction carried out through the eCitizen portal. I am aware that Goldrock Capital is not authorised by the CS, National Treasury to collect revenue for and on behalf of the government,” Dr Thugge says in his response.

Webmasters Kenya has also denied subcontracting Goldrock to collect money paid for government services through eCitizen.

“There is no privity of contract between Goldrock Capital and Webmasters Kenya. Goldrock Capital has not demonstrated either by adducing evidence or by affidavit evidence that it has a relationship with Webmasters Kenya or that Webmasters Kenya has been or is in control of paybill 206206 hence there is no disclosed cause of action against Webmasters Kenya,” Webmasters Kenya says.

Goldrock says it was subcontracted by Webmasters Africa Limited on behalf of Webmasters Kenya Limited but Webmasters Kenya says it has no relationship with Webmasters Africa and has never hired Goldrock Capital to collect revenue from the eCitizen platform.

Court records show that Webmasters Kenya’s CEO James Ayugi is still the managing director of Webmasters Africa’s, pointing at an ownership or management link between the two software development firms.

In Webmasters Africa’s responding affidavit, Mr Ayugi acknowledges that the firm subcontracted Goldrock to collect money paid to the eCitizen platform, but says the deal would expire in the event that the government issued a binding directive relating to the payment portal.

Dr Thugge, though, insists that the contract between Goldrock and Webmasters is illegal as collection of revenue on behalf of the government requires authorisation from Treasury CS Henry Rotich.

Goldrock Capital had obtained a court judgment allowing it access to Sh127 million that it had collected before being locked out of the Mpesa paybill account in April 2017.

Webmasters Kenya, Safaricom and the Treasury have challenged the judgment, arguing that Goldrock tricked Justice Fred Ochieng into reaching the decision.

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