KENYA – Beer maker EABL’s finance director Tracy Barnes was on Wednesday questioned by officials of the Immigration department over allegations of employee harassment.
The East African Breweries Limited (EABL) finance chief was summoned to Nyayo House after the director of immigration received an anonymous letter accusing her of perpetuating racial bias at the company.
The letter, allegedly written by a former EABL employee, was forwarded to Immigration officials by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) along with a demand that the validity and merit of work permits held by the company’s expatriates be established.
Ms Barnes, who has been EABL’s finance director since March 2012, is accused of setting “outrageous” targets for workers and allegedly replacing Kenyan employees at the brewer with expatriates.
The Immigration office Wednesday responded to the claims, announcing that it had summoned Ms Barnes to question her on the raft of allegations contained in the letter.
“As per the complaint raised yesterday, the EABL finance director Tracey Barnes is at Nyayo House to answer some queries,” officials of the department posted on their official Twitter page Wednesday afternoon.
“The complaint (of)… Ms Barnes intimidating Kenyan staff has been received and action will be taken.”
Contacted for comment, EABL told Business Daily it had received no complaint from any former or current employee against Ms Barnes.
“The allegations are untrue and are calculated to tarnish the reputation of the individual concerned,” said Group HR Director Paul Kasimu. “Regrettably COFEK did not seek EABL’s response and/or undertake any exercise to verify the allegations prior to restating them to various stakeholders.”
EABL’s board currently consists of 16 members, a quarter of whom — Charles Ireland (the managing director), Nick Blazquez, Andy Fennell and Ms Barnes are expatriates.
There are also a number of expats working in the company’s top management. However, the firm points out that it provides equal opportunities for all its employees.
“We welcome and celebrate diversity,” Kasimu said. “EABL has a number of its Kenyan employees currently working in senior management ex-patriate positions outside Kenya (within the Diageo business), including positions such as Managing and Finance Director.”
The letter of complaint sent to the Immigration Department blames Ms Barnes for riding her team too hard.
“We have not met the targets for two years because of the unreasonable targets set by the Group Finance Director,” the author grumbles. “The targets are not only unrealistic and un-achievable, but purely meant to frustrate employees so that they are sacked and replaced with whites and that is exactly what has been happening.”
The letter was copied to the Cabinet secretaries for Labour and Interior, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Chief of Staff and the chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.