Mul­ti­choice re­jects Sh895m Nairobi of­fice

Business Daily (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - Gal­gallo Fayo [email protected]­tion­media.com

PAY-TV ser­vice provider, Mul­ti­choice Kenya, is em­broiled in a bit­ter dis­pute with a con­trac­tor after it re­jected an Sh895 mil­lion faulty of­fice block it had hired a lo­cal firm to build.

Ce­menters Lim­ited, the con­trac­tors, have sued the TV firm ar­gu­ing that Mul­ti­choice is plan­ning to sell the build­ing lo­cated on Nairobi’s Oloitok­tok Road even be­fore the dis­pute is re­solved.

Ce­menters on Au­gust 1 ob­tained or­ders al­low­ing it to ac­cess Mul­ti­choice Kenya of­fices and the project struc­tural en­gi­neer in or­der to get the doc­u­ments it was seek­ing to pros­e­cute its case with the dig­i­tal satel­lite tele­vi­sion firm.

Jus­tice James Makau fur­ther re­strained Mul­ti­choice from dis­pos­ing of the build­ing un­til the suit is heard and de­ter­mined.

The or­ders re­strained “Mul­ti­choice or its agents from ad­ver­tis­ing or of­fer­ing for sale the prop­erty…sit­u­ated along Oloitok­tok

Road within the Lav­ing­ton area of Nairobi County, and com­manded the TV firm to pre­serve the said prop­erty in its cur­rent state pend­ing the hear­ing and de­ter­mi­na­tion of the suit,” Jus­tice Makau ruled.

Mul­ti­choice Kenya Lim­ited is listed as the first de­fen­dant in the suit while re­gional di­rec­tor of Mul­ti­choice In­ter­na­tional Hold­ings East Africa, Stephen Is­aboke, is listed as the sec­ond de­fen­dant.

Ce­menters Lim­ited on Au­gust 6 con­fis­cated some elec­tron­ics and doc­u­ments from Mul­ti­choice of­fices, a move that the pay-tv firm chal­lenged in court.

Mul­ti­choice ar­gues that grant­ing Ce­menters Lim­ited a blan­ket

ac­cess to its premises was ob­jec­tion­able be­cause it risks ex­pos­ing con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion on its cus­tomers such as names, ad­dresses, smart card in­for­ma­tion and lo­ca­tion.

Mul­ti­choice says the seizure has af­fected its lo­gis­ti­cal op­er­a­tions and that of its sis­ter firms in 15 African coun­tries.

The TV firm ar­gued that al­low­ing third par­ties to ac­cess such in­for­ma­tion ex­posed it to the risk of be­ing sued for breach of cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion.

Mul­ti­choice has fur­ther asked the court to al­low it to con­tinue with the planned sale of the prop­erty, ar­gu­ing that the pro­posed sale is in­tended to mit­i­gate the Sh4.6 mil­lion loss it is in­cur­ring per month to se­cure, in­sure and main­tain the faulty build­ing.

Mul­ti­choice Kenya man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Eric Odipo, who is also listed as a de­fen­dant in the suit, says Ce­menters Lim­ited’s con­tract was ter­mi­nated in June 2017 after the con­trac­tor was given no­tice that also sought to re­fer the mat­ter to ar­bi­tra­tion.

Mr Odipo said Mul­ti­choice opted to sell the build­ing be­cause it would not serve the in­tended pur­pose since the re­me­dial works pro­posed would in­tro­duce more col­umns mak­ing the spa­ces more closed.

Mul­ti­choice says the con- trac­tor had shown in­ter­est in buy­ing the build­ing, but al­legedly moved to court the same week it was sup­posed to dis­cuss the deal.

The firm wants the court to strike out the suit, ar­gu­ing that the only op­tion avail­able is ar­bi­tra­tion as pro­vided in the con­tract.

High Court judge Grace Nzioka on Au­gust 9 or­dered that no fur­ther con­fis­ca­tion of ma­te­ri­als should take place and that Ce­menters re­leases all ma­te­ri­als not au­tho­rized by the court for seizure.

Ce­menters Lim­ited was on March 18, 2015 awarded the Sh895 mil­lion con­tract to build the Mul­ti­choice of­fice block. The firm un­der­took to com­plete the work within 83 weeks or Oc­to­ber 2016. But in Jan­uary 2016, some beams started sag­ging prompt­ing the Con­apex Con­sult­ing Engi­neers Lim­ited and Mul­ti­choice to com­mis­sion in­de­pen­dent ex­perts to find out the cause of the sag­ging.

Con­apex were the struc­tural engi­neers over­see­ing the con­struc­tion. Ce­menters Lim­ited says after this de­fect was de­tected the struc­tural en­gi­neer was re­placed with In­ter­con­sult Lim­ited, a firm that had been ear­lier en­gaged as an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert to au­dit the build­ing after de­fects were de­tected.

Ce­menters Lim­ited said Mul­ti­choice de­clined to give it a signed copy of the re­port and in­stead shared an un­signed doc­u­ment.

The con­struc­tion compa- ny claims that the re­port was doc­tored to show the sag­ging of the beams was caused by con­crete. The re­port, Ce­menters says, was meant to ab­solve struc­tural engi­neers from li­a­bil­ity even as it be­came clear that the de­fect was struc­tural for which struc­tural engi­neers should have been held li­able.

Ce­menters Lim­ited claims that by the time the con­struc­tion was stopped it had done 70 per­cent of the work, trans­lat­ing to Sh626.5 mil­lion.

The com­pany claims that due to neg­a­tive rep­u­ta­tion em­a­nat­ing from the project it had lost a con­tract for de­vel­op­ment of Habi­tat val­ued at Sh1.3 bil­lion and a Sh3.5 bil­lion con­tract of Five Star Par­adise in Ki­ambu.

--FILE

NAIROBI The Mul­ti­choice of­fice in West­lands.

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