The government could pay millions of shillings in an out-of-court settlement for a presidential chair it returned to a designer it contracted after the chair was used by former president Daniel arap Moi for a year.
Furncon Ltd, through its director, Mr Solomon Njoroge Kiore, sued the government through the Attorney-General 26 years ago for failing to pay for two presidential seats he designed, made and delivered according to the terms of a tender he had won.
In February, 2018, the State applied to settle the matter out of court, setting the stage for an end to the protracted legal battle that saw Mr Kiore’s business crumble since he cannot use the premises where he keeps the seats.
‘INSTRUMENT OF POWER’
“It is an instrument of power. It was used by the President for a year. It is treasured and, therefore, no one is supposed to touch it. My business has suffered immensely because of this seat since I cannot allow ordinary wananchi to tamper with an instrument of power,” he says.
He has since labelled what used to be his workshop “The Presidential Seat Warehouse”. The seat is kept under lock and key in the warehouse.
The company was seeking Sh195 million when it filed the case in 2007, but the amount could hit the Sh1 billion mark if the firm charges storage fees.
The businessman says although he has not heard from the government since February 27, 2018, when it applied for time to seek an out-of-court settlement, he is optimistic that the seat will find its way to the recently created State House Library and Museum.
He did not object to the government’s applications for out-of-court negotiations, signalling his willingness to have the matter settled amicably.
While applying for an out-of court-settlement, a State law lawyer said the issues raised are intricate.
Mr Kiore says his company has not been paid since September 1992, when he designed, made and delivered the presidential chair.
It was not the first time Mr Kiore’s firm was involved in making furniture for VIP use at State functions.
He says the seat was made under strict supervision of the military and State House staff.
In its pleadings filed in the High Court in Nairobi, the firm says it won the tender floated by the Department of Defence (DoD) and later got the approval of State House.
In order for the furniture to join other insignias of the Republic of Kenya, approval was given by the tender board and later assented to by then President Moi.
The firm was asked to make similar furniture for presidential lounges at the Eldoret Moi Airbase and Kahawa Garrison, Mr Kiore says.
The company also says it was asked to deliver the chairs to the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) offices in Nairobi for a three-day presidential function.
But the President ordered that the furniture remain at the ASK office, according to a letter from the ASK dated August 5, 1999. These are the seats whose case the government wants to settle out of court.
Furncon wants a declaration that the ownership of the items was passed on to the government in September, 1992, under the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act.
Although Mr Moi used the items for a year, Furncon explains that the ASK later wrote to it, advising it to collect the furniture.
Mr Kiore was later called to the DoD and advised to go to State House for payment, but, he was sent back to DoD and told that it was the department that had made payments for such items in the past.
In 2014, the company indicated its willingness to have the seat disposed off in antiques auction or sold to world museums as a way of recovering monies used to design it.
“The plaintiff desires to dispose off the presidential instrument either by itself or agents by auctioning it with world museums or international antiques auctions as a way of recovering its losses of designing, manufacturing, processing and storage,” the company said in a petition before the High Court.