By Special Correspondent
Vodafone PLC bosses in the United Kingdom are reportedly bracing for a fresh scandal emanating from its Kenyan subsidiary – Safaricom Limited – whose top executives are embroiled in a scandal involving the death of minor just weeks after commemoration of the 10th annivesary of the firm’s cashcow M-Pesa money transfer services.
The crisis has mushroomed from a high-speed road crash that resulted to the death of a poor minor resident in the slums of Kibera adjacent to the Southern bypass in Nairobi caused by a sleek vehicle driven by a top Safaricom executive. The vehicle a top of the range Toyota Prado KBU 483M has Safaricom Ltd registered as its legal owners.
Mrs Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge, currently Safaricom’s Director for Consumer Business, was involved in the fatal accident allegedly caused by reckless driving resulting in the death of young Mary Kusa Etale who was a minor living with her parents in Kibera. Mrs Mulinge, in conspiracy with her bosses, then went ahead and kept the crash secret contrary to Vodafones’s strict Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) policy.
Already, lawyers acting for the deceased have written a protest letter to the Directorate of Public Prosecution highlighting the mishandling of the case of causing death by careless/dangerous driving. The letter is copied to the Inspector General of Police and the Independent Police Oversight Authority. The DPP investigations into the matter will certainly open a nasty can of worms that will not augur well for Vodafone’s expensively maintained corporate image.
The accident was itself a bold violation of a core section of Vodafone’s “Absolute Rules” on OHS which demands that employees must “never exceed speed limits or travel at speeds that are dangerous for the type of road, vehicle, or conditions”. Eye witnesses claim Mrs Mulinge was speeding while overtaking a stationary truck at the time of the accident which happenend in an area known as “Raila Village” which is known to have high pedestrian traffic.
However, what will horrify top bosses of giant British multinational telecommunications company which has a majority 40% stake in Safaricom is that Safaricom CEO Bobby Collymore appears to have secretly conspired with Mrs Mulinge to cover up the accident with the intention of protecting the exposure of Mrs Mulinge as a reckless/careless driver and move which amounts to a serious infringement of one of the core values for Vodafone PLC which, as part of its OHS, maintains a strict zero tolerance to loss of life or injury related to Vodafone operations or by any of its more than 100,000 employees worldwide.
The scandalous Safaricom top duo then went as far as attempting to bribe the parents of the deceased through an out of court settlement with a paltry offer Kenya shillings 950,000/- which betrayed the value they attached to the late Mary’s life.
To make matter worse, correspondence prepared by lawyers acting for the deceased family suggest Mrs Mulinge and Mr. Collymore of illegally influencing law enforcement officials to avoid thorough investigations as to the cause and circumstances of the fatal accident.
If proven, these bribery allegations of influencing police will have criminal implications in both Kenya and UK, and will also have violated Vodafone ethical standards since the firm has strict policy toward any form of bribery. This is policy embedded across the Group worldwide through their robust global anti-bribery programme, which is aligned with the principles of the UK Bribery Act (2011) guidance.
In late 2012, at least three senior employees were fired by Vodafone India for driving recklessly out of office hours.Vodafone is known to enforce adherence to its safety regulations and each of its global market are expected to report health and safety incidents through their firm’s global online reporting system.
The management of all Vodafone subsidiaries around the world are required tondpcumebt and report all major or high-potential incidents within 48 hours to the Group Director of Health, Safety and Well-being; and thereafter a full investigation is undertaken into the causes. Local market CEOs, in this case Bobby Colymore of Safarixom, are/is required to oversee these investigations personally and to ensure corrective actions are implemented. In the case of this accident, Collymore appears to have done nothing apart from trying to cover – up for Sylvia Mulinge.
The Kenyan government owns 35% of Safaricom which is Kenya’s most profitable company while the remaining 25% is publicly floated on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. M-Pesa had served almost 29.5 million active customers through a network of more than 287 400 agents.
It remains to be seen what action, if any, Vodafone will take against Mr. Collymore and Mrs Mulinge as the scandal threatens to destroy the reputation of its most profitable subsidiary in the third world.