In recent days, Kenyans have been treated to news of human rights violations, fraud and corruption by the Firstchoice Recruitment agency-whose founder and director - Judy Jepchirchir is still at large. First Choice is reported to have swiftly defrauded unsuspecting Kenyans of their hard-earned money under the guise of finding/connecting them to job opportunities in the middle east, in particular Qatar, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
We note with concern that over 1000 job seekers fell prey to this scam with the amounts lost by victims ranging between Kshs. 40,000- Kshs.650,000. It is outrageous that, Judy Jepchirchir abused the trust of youth in her own backyard in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County and is on record threatening her victims and bragging about connections with key political figures in the country, an action that points to deliberate attempt to evade accountability. And as if to shove this in the faces of those she has preyed on, Jepchirchir has failed to honour summons by the Senate, a record three times, which begs the question ‘who is protecting Jepchirchir?’ This scandal highlights a troubling trend of heightened impunity and corruption within Kenya's recruitment industry.
It is unfortunate that fraudsters such as the Firstchoice Recruitment agency are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate in the country to defraud millions of desperate unemployed youth seeking job opportunities beyond the Kenyan borders. Further, such occurrence not only jeopardizes the livelihoods of job seekers but also erodes the trust that the public should have in recruitment agencies to facilitate fair and honest employment opportunities.
In addition, the exploitation by Firstchoice Recruitment agency is contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution, labour laws and infringe on the economic and social rights of the affected Kenyans. Section 9(2)(3) of the Labour Institutions (Private Employment Agencies) Regulations of 20I6, provides procedure to be followed by the registered agencies during recruitment including job specification / description and the number of positions available— a procedure which KHRC notes with concern was disregarded by Firstchoice recruitment agency. Jepchirchir’s actions amount to fraud. In Criminal Appeal No E025 of 2021, fraud is a common law tort of deceit whose ingredients are false representation of a false fact with the intention that the other party should act on it and that party suffers damage which is the case in this matter. necessitating the utmost attention, as they have resulted in the defrauding of numerous Kenyan citizens.
CALL TO ACTION
- The conduct of Firstchoice recruitment agency is CRIMINAL and should be treated as such. We therefore demand that those responsible be brought to justice and that measures be put in place to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.
- The Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee expedite investigations into the unfolding scandal by Firstchoice recruitment agency to advise on the next steps including underscoring the critical need for a comprehensive examination of the industry practices.
- The National Employment Authority (NEA), which is mandated to take the necessary steps to protect the unemployed against any form of abuse or exploitation, must wake up and live up to this mandate. NEA must move with speed and collaborate with other relevant government agencies to ensure the young people who have been exploited by Jepchirchir get justice which should include full and speedy compensation.
In conclusion, this fraudulent case is a clear depiction of the rot, murk and high-level corruption that define most employment agencies in Kenya. These agencies operate with reckless abandon, sending people to death traps in the Middle East, in the name of securing them jobs and yet no accountability is realized. NEA must see this as a reminder that vigilance and accountability are essential in maintaining the integrity of Kenya's job market. It is imperative that the authorities take swift and decisive action to address these allegations and restore trust in the recruitment industry.
- Kenya Human Rights Commission