The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) Executive Director Mr. Edward Sigei is a man under siege after Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) in Kenya accused the regulator of incompetence and recommended he be relieved of his duties.
Mr. Sigei appeared before the Parliamentary committee on Sports and Culture on 5th of May 2023 Chaired by Webuye West Member of Parliament Hon. Dan Wanyama to answer to claims of corruption and abuse of office in a case where he (Mr. Sigei) and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) CEO Dr. Joseph Njagi, withdrew a court case that had awarded some artistes Sh67 million in royalties.
It is claimed by the petitioner that, the KECOBO boss and the PRISK CEO without consent of the artistes and the boards of the CMOs, entered into a clandestine out-of-court arrangement with the media house that had been fined Sh67 million, obtained bribes and withdrew the case from the High Court of Kenya. The withdrawal of the case, according to the petitioners, led to the artistes losing the Sh67 million in royalties.
READ: Government Proposes 15% Cut on Film licensing
Kirinyaga County Women representative Hon. Jane Njeri who is a former artiste and current member of the three CMOs in her submission had sought to know why PRISK and KECOBO had withdrawn the case yet it was evident the High Court was right to award the artistes the royalties.
“I would like to ask the Committee on Sports and Culture to investigate the dealings of the parties to find out if there was any collusion that led to artists losing their Royalties. I also would like to understand the motive behind the withdrawal of this case when the court had already awarded the artistes Kshs 67 million.”
Hon. Njeri had questioned.
Nil By Mouth…
The respondents (KECOBO and PRISK) through their bosses were unable to satisfactorily explain to the committee the circumstances that led to the withdrawal of the case. Mr. Sigei, who at the hearing was flanked by his deputy and legal officer was nil by mouth most of the day as accusations and counter accusations flew his direction.
When asked by the Committee Chairman why KECOBO issued interim licenses that lasted four months contrary to the six month period stated in the law, the regulating body boss was unable to explain himself. He was also astonished when asked to present his legal officer to help him interpret the laws governing the regulatory body.
‘Does the Kenya Copyright Board have a legal mind to advise the Executive Director on actions he takes because it is crystal clear that the Copyright Board boss has been operating contrary to the law?’
charged Hon. Wanyama who also sought to know whether there actually existed a board or if it was a one man show at KECOBO.
‘The essence and focus of the Kenya Kwanza government is to have a very robust creative economy for this country. This is the only way we can help our artistes. We want to tackle the issues that our artistes and the CMOs have with the regulator and create a conducive environment for the artistes as well as the CMOs. So far, we have established that the problem here is the regulator and in particular the KECOBO Executive Director who seems to be playing a ‘One Man Guitar’ at the board,’
noted Hon. Wanyama.
READ: Safaricom, KCB Launch ‘Fuliza ya Biashara’
The Committee Chair was reacting to claims that the Copyright Board had failed to license CMOs but had kept the licensing fee instead of refunding the same. It was further claimed that the KECOBO boss had demanded to be a signatory of the CMO accounts before issuing licenses.
‘From what we are hearing in the submissions, a lot of atrocities and embezzlement has been going on at the expense of hard working artistes, this Committee will do its work to clean up the music industry. I want to assure you that those found culpable of any wrongdoing will be brought to book,”
stated the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Hon. Wanyama.
Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) CEO Dr. Ezekiel Mutua in his submissions claimed that the regulator KECOBO had frustrated CMOs by denying them licenses and asking for kickbacks of up to Sh5million in order to be licensed. Dr. Mutua further accused the CEO of underhand dealings and demands to be made a signatory to MCSK accounts contrary to the law, allegations that the Copyright Board Executive Director termed untrue.
‘Mr Sigei has overstayed in office and should be fired or moved elsewhere in order to allow maximum collection of royalties. As MCSK, we are amazed that the regulator is frustrating collection of royalties on behalf of young talented Kenyans. We hear the KECOBO boss has ‘god fathers’ in government, for this reason, the President should pronounce himself on this because the hustlers that we are fighting for are the people that he also committed to fight for. These musicians are the real hustlers,”
Dr. Mutua said.
READ: myCounty App Set To Digitize Services In Counties
‘We have a lot of faith in the Parliamentary Committee, finally our voices shall be heard. We are asking the President, kindly just remove this man. Give him another job. He can serve elsewhere. We want this industry to thrive,”
pleaded Dr. Mutua.
The Committee members also noted that it was unfair for the regulator to continue frustrating artistes and demanded that he be audited and if found guilty, he should be brought to book.
‘Mr. Sigei should be investigated, audited and if found guilty should be behind bars. We cannot have such kind of accusations against a government official and fail to look deep into the matter, ‘
said Teso South Member of Parliament Mary Emaase.
Present at the meeting, MCSK Chairman Lazarus Muli claimed that they have in the past unsuccessfully tried to have the Copyright Board boss investigated and audited.
‘We’ve even gone to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, written some letters to them asking to audit this person, not only forensic audit but lifestyle audit because he is unfit to hold that office but that is yet to happen, ”
said MCSK Board Chairperson Lazarus Muli.
The rule of law…
The Committee Chairman, after listening to all the submissions thus directed that KECOBO licenses the CMOs fully to allow them collect royalties as established in law. Further, Hon. Wanyama directed the regulator to refund to MCSK and KAMP funds that the CMOs had paid for licenses that were never issued. He added that as a regulator, the Kenya Copyright Board is obligated to act within the rule of law.
“ We have issued instructions to the regulator Mr. Sigei to make sure that the CMOs that have not received their licenses should have received their licenses and most importantly the regulator should ensure the CMOs are supported to enforce royalty collections particularly from media houses, matatus as well as hotels and clubs that use musicians content to make money yet the musicians themselves are not doing as much,’
said Hon. Wanyama.
The Kenya Copyright Board boss Mr. Edward Sigei declined to address journalists over the matter at the end of the sitting, he however agreed to implement the recommendations of the committee. The departmental committee on Sports and Culture consists of members Catherine Omanyo (Busia), Robert Basil (Yatta ), Charles Nguna Ngusya (Mwingi West), Stephen Mule (Matungulu), Nabuin Ekwom (Turkana North), James Wamacukuru (Kabete), Mary Emaase (Teso South), Dr Jackson Kosgei (Nominated), Richard Yegon of Bomet East and Chaired by Webuye West MP. Dan Wanyama.