Treasury knew we were collecting funds, firm says in eCitizen suit

Premium service rate provider Goldrock Capital has insisted both the National Treasury and Safaricom knew it was collecting funds from users of the government’s eCitizen platform.

The firm, which is fighting to regain its role as the administrator of the system’s payment portal, says it was collecting the funds on behalf of the government.

In fresh affidavits, the firm says the Treasury published a gazette notice in December 2014, approving the use of an eCitizen M-Pesa paybill number, knowing that it had been registered to Goldrock Capital.

Goldrock adds that Safaricom, which owns and runs the M-Pesa platform, knew that the paybill number was intended for collection of public funds on behalf of the government.

It has attached a copy of its application form in which it cites “collection of funds for the government digital payments framework” as the purpose for registering paybill number.

Goldrock sued the National Treasury, Attorney General Githu Muigai, Safaricom, Webmasters Africa Limited and Webmasters Kenya Limited after being locked out of eCitizen’s mobile money payments.

It wants the High Court to reinstate it as the administrator of eCitizen’s paybill number. Goldrock also wants the court to order bot the government and Safaricom to release to it all the convenience fees that have been collected since the inception of the eCitizen portal in 2015.

The amount stood at Sh127 million in April last year when Goldrock was locked out. The firm wants any amount collected since to be remitted to it as well.

“It is not in dispute that Goldrock and Safaricom completed an agreement on October 27, 2014 whose primary purpose was collection of funds for the government digital payments framework on the strength of which paybill number 206206 was registered,” the firm says.

“Immediately thereafter, on December 23, 2014 the Treasury CS in seeking to comply with section 75(I) of the Public Finance Management Act and knowing that paybill number 206206 was the exclusive property of Goldrock Capital, appointed Goldrock Capital through gazette notice number 9290.”

Software development firm Webmasters Kenya created the eCitizen platform with funding from the World Bank.

Last year, Treasury PS Kamau Thugge said, in court filings, that Webmasters Kenya was to only train government officials on collection of revenue from eCitizen users.

Goldrock says it was subcontracted to collect eCitizen revenue by Webmasters Africa.

Webmasters Africa and Webmasters Kenya have since denied having any relationship despite sharing a CEO - James Ayugi. Users are charged Sh50 above set charges as a “convenience fee”.

Safaricom has objected to the suit, arguing that its contract with Goldrock provided for arbitration in the event of a dispute over the paybill number.

Last year, Goldrock obtained default judgment allowing it to collect Sh127 million in Safaricom’s custody. Webmasters, the government and Safaricom have since challenged the judgment.

Safaricom said Goldrock should not be allowed to benefit from an "illegal enterprise".

The telecommunication firm said the Sh127 million convenience fee is tied up with principal amounts paid by service seekers. It says it will be difficult to ascertain how much of what has been collected since April last year falls under convenience fee.

Last year, out-of-court talks collapsed after the National Treasury and the Attorney General refused to have the dispute referred to arbitration.


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