The national government will move a motion to Parliament to seek amendments to Article 186 of the Kenyan Constitution over clarity of the functions and authority between the national and County governments in the issuance of liquor licenses.
The national government feels there is overlap in liquor licenses issuances and regulations between the two governments.
The move comes at the backdrop of mushrooming businesses selling counterfeit and substandard alcoholic drinks on licenses issued by county governments.
The location of the outlets in estates and near learning institutions has led to claims that county governments are prioritising revenue collection at the expense of security and other considerations.
“There is a clause in the Constitution under the devolved functions and the role of county governments in the regulation of bars and liquor businesses. There is selective misinterpretation to mean that county governments are responsible for standardization of brews. It should be clear that standardization and licensing of liquor exportation and importation is a function of the national government,” said Interior Principal Secretary Dr. Karanja Kibicho.
Provisions for the phased transfer of alcohol control and regulations were made after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.
National bodies like the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) were to assist county governments in building their capacity in preparation for taking up the liquor licensing function.
NACADA therefore, developed a model county alcoholic drinks control bill that was to be adopted in each of the 47 county assemblies and went further to train county officials on the same.
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However, due to political pressure from county governments, the national government surrendered all the functions ahead of schedule in 2013, phased transfer of the functions was thrown out and all the functions were transferred to county government with immediate effect.
For close to one year after the transfer of functions to county governments, liquor licensing across the country was not very well coordinated. This is because the county governments lacked the necessary legal framework and capacity to effectively take over this function.
Unfortunately, during this period, alcohol outlets in different parts of the country were said to flout some of the key provisions relating to alcohol control such as selling to minors, selling adulterated alcohol and even selling alcohol outside of retail hours for alcohol products.
Interior PS Kibicho while in Thika, flagged off the nationwide Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) on substance and illicit alcoholic drinks.
It is in line with current political temperatures in the country less than one year towards general election.
The government will be increasing its offense against uncertified liquor, bhang and other substances whose uptake tends to register an upsurge around the election season.
He also warned that the latest crackdown will focus more on powerful and well-connected manufacturers and dealers in contraband liquor and other illicit commodities.
“We have seen, heard and even read about horror stories about killer brews. In the past, we have sacked some of our officers, we have even jailed several culprits, and we will continue to be ruthless. This is a national initiative that must be taken with a lot of seriousness.”
A response command centre has been established to collect and the data on the progress of the RRI, which Dr. Kibicho said will be shared in due course.
The government has reoriented its policy towards treatment, rehabilitation, and support of addicts besides the control mechanisms, regular surveillance, and penalization of criminals involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of counterfeit and substandard alcohol.
Dr. Kibicho said Kenya seeks to cut off supply chains blamed on the death and life-threatening injuries to over 30,000 Kenyans.