The Government Coast Agency (GCA) is a government department within the Ministry of Finance in the government of the Republic of Kenya.
The Department is charged with the duties and responsibilities of clearing and forwarding (imports and exports) of goods coming into and going out of the country for various Ministries, departments and related organizations.
Its also charged with the responsibility of offering passage Services for the government Officers Traveling out of the Country. The historical perspective of the Agency dates back to early 1900's if not earlier than that. It evolved with the advent of the British Colonial Administration, which was then known as Colony and protectorate of Kenya.
Though the available documentary sources indicate that it may have been founded between 1905 and 1907 there is cause to believe that it may have existed in any other name, especially when the Kenya coastal strip was under the reign of the Sultan of Zanzibar in the second half of 19th century. At the onset, the Agency was known as Kenya Coast Agency, which later changed to be Government Coast Agency by 1907.
Initially the Government coast Agency's main functions were:
- Booking passages for the British Colonial Government officials together with their families who were coming into the country.
- Clearing and forwarding and distribution of government's imports and exports into and out of the country.
The G.C.A. in its operations covered a wide scope of the East, Central and some of the South African regions. The growth and development of Kenya as a country owes much to the work done by the G.C.A. as a sole agent that ensured safe, and secure clearing and forwarding of goods that helped much in the construction of the government infrastructure.
This is true to the fact that the Government Coast Agent, heading the Agency, was directly answerable to the Director of the Public Works Department (P.W.D). The P.W.D in turn was responsible for equipping, constructing, and supplying goods to all the other areas of the public sector. Such government goods handled by the Agency included:
Building materials and furniture,
- Machinery, equipment and other facilities,
- Handling currency for the Colonial government bankers,
- Clearing and forwarding arms and ammunition and other military hardware for the armed forces,
- Clearing and forwarding drugs,
- Clearing and forwarding chemicals for laboratories, institutions, schools and hospitals,
- Handling farm machinery, equipments and fertilizers, and most important,
- Handling incoming and outgoing essential government confidential items for the colonial administration.
The other major role the GCA has been undertaking since inception is removal of dangerous goods in form of:
- Fire arms and ammunition (which include explosives)
- Munitions of war and
- Military supplies on behalf of the armed forces for both the Kenya Government and Uganda Government respectively.
The GCA also clears military vehicles together with their accompanying accessories. By so doing the Agency procured a permit from the related authorizing office concerned with the specific consignment. Handling of currency and arms and ammunitions and other military hardware as Kwanya (GCA 1968) put it, "is a very responsible job and the Government Coast Agency pays more attention to the two items than any other item cleared at the port".
The staff establishment in GCA during the colonial era was mostly European on the Management and executive cadres, Asian (i.e. Indians, Goans and Arabs) in the clerical cadres and African in the humblest jobs that demanded manual input. Irrespective of the Europeans & Asians holding the white color jobs in the GCA between 1907 and 1963, it is a matter of interest to note that the documentary sources reveal that an African who had a long record of service and some training could be upgraded to become a clerk. In 1925 a Mr. H. James Mwalewa who whose first date of appointment was 11th November 1925, was serving as an assistant to clearing and forwarding clerks, with a monthly emolument of sixty-five shillings (shs.65/=) per month.
The history of the GCA's leadership was completely dominated by Europeans from inception until 1966 when Mr. A. Kwanya took over as the Government Coast Agent. The staff establishment in the post of the Government Coast Agent was as follows: -
1907 - 1920 - Mr. J. Doherty
1920 - 1929 - Mr. J. Pollesty
1929 - 1941 - Mr. L. Schoolman
1941 - 1950 - Mr. F.G. Lapham
1950 - 1963 - Mr. T.L. Burrows
1963 - 1965 - Mr. D. Groom
1966 - 1971 -Mr. A. Kwanya
1971 - 1984 - Mr. A. Abreau
1985 - 1996 - Mr. C.W. Misiko
1996 - 1998 - Mr. H. L. Chohan
1998 - 2003 - Mr. R. M. Ndune
2003 - - Mr. F.L.B. Ateng.
The GCA Department as a unit has for the most part of its existence been under the Public Works Department. During the colonial Administration the Kenya government had no established ministries thus it was an autonomous unit within the department of public works until the second half of 1950s. The Government Clearing Agency was directly addressed and held personally responsible for the functions and activities of that unit.
In 1960, the Agency was declared a full department within the Ministry of Housing, Common Services & Approved Schools until 1962.
In 1962 the GCA Department was moved to the Ministry of Works communication & Power with its headquarters at Harambee House, Nairobi. It is during the Management of Both Burrows and Groom that the Agency faced trying challenges. During Burrows time 1950 - 1960 there was a state of Emergency in the country and the GCA had to clear many military related imports. Then during Grooms time 1963 - 1965 saw a lot of movement of the British Citizens due to decolonization. In 1964 the GCA was mandated to be the currency-forwarding officer for East African currency Board (E.A.C.B.). This Board was responsible for all the currencies used in the three E.A. countries Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. The GCA Mr. Groom was therefore responsible for shipping the E.A. Common curry clearing and forwarding and wholly responsible for railage.
In 1967 the department was placed under the Minister for Works until 1977 when the office of the Vice President and the Ministry of Finance absorbed it.
In 1979 the Director of Customs issued a letter to the effect that the GCA operation were placed under his responsibility nevertheless records shows that the GCA is still a department within the Ministry of Finance up to date.
In 1985 the Agency was merged with the clearing and forwarding unit of the Ministry of Works. Full absorption and handing over to the Ministry of Finance took place in 1989.
The Government Coast Agency was formed at the turn of the century around 1900. The formation of the Agency was necessitated by the number of Colonial Administrators who were coming into the Country and who needed such an agency to clear their goods and baggages as well as arrange freight and passage for their families and other workers who were required into the colony.
Over the time the functions of the agency has been as follows;
1905 - 1930
During these period the Department main duties included:
- Clearing and forwarding upcountry of Lend-Lease shipments from the USA.
- Shipment of Government cargo to Dar-es-salaam, Lonrence Marques and Colombo.
- Clearing and forwarding of all imports for the East African Governments.
- Processing of European and Asian Passage.
- Clearing and forwarding of Government Officers official baggage's.
- Prepare customs declaration and disposal orders for both Kenya and Uganda.
- Prepare claims for Damaged and short-landed cargo against shipping companies and Marine Insurance fund.(h) Meeting government officials and their families arriving from abroad.
- Issuing of government warrants and stores.
- Preparing and Issuing of Import Free Entries.
- Certifying Detention Claims.
- Issuing of Licences to move vehicles from Mombasa via Nairobi to Uganda.
- Transmission of classified documents to security agents in Kenya
- Clearing and forwarding of arms and ammunitions belonging to Uganda Government (Military Equipment).
- The Government Coast Agent also acted as the currency forwading officer where he handled all the currency coming into the country on behalf of the East African currency board.
- Clearing and forwarding of Drugs and ensuring that they have not expired.
- The other major role that needs to be emphasized is the protocol duties. GCA was coordinating with foreign Governments on issues of staff and the cargoes that were coming into the country. Arrangements of Passage and negotiations especially where Foreign goods like Military Weapons for Uganda was concerned.
In 1977 the Government Clearing unit was established. It was felt that very many Ministries, Government Departments and Institutions were finding it difficult to clear their goods, which were arriving, by air at Jomo Kenyatta International airport and by post parcel at the Nairobi General Post Office.
The reason advanced for the formation of the unit was as follows: -
- The GCA has been responsible for the function of clearing and forwarding all government imports and exports besides handling sea passages for expatriates and their personal effects. Most of the Government goods having been by sea freight in the past, clearing activities in Nairobi were negligible and as a result they were left to private clearing agents.
- As Air freighting started acquiring popularity in the world market and compared favourably with sea freight Nairobi started receiving more and more goods by air. In the process ministries and departments hired different clearing and forwarding Agents who varied according to shipments and consignments. Coordination and control diminished resulting to delays, communication bottlenecks and ultimate paying of colossal amounts of money in form of demurrage.
- It was during the re-organisation of supplies services in late 1976 when the Government Coast Agent extended the clearing services to Nairobi. A new unit was started and stationed at the supplies Branch Industrial Area. It has since extended to acquire adequate office accommodation at the airport.
- The choice of Supplies Branch to coordinate the clearing services was based on: All overseas purchases indents were vetted and processed through the Branch and it was necessary for the unit to have access to these records,The Branch offered adequate office accommodation for the unit.Since no extra personnel were made available for the purpose of starting the unit and the GCA could only afford to second an officer on Job Group H to start the unit, the ministry found it appropriate to appoint the chief supplies officer to co-ordinate and supervise the unit's activities with the GCA as the functional head.
- After the Presidential Circular No. Of 1979 the GCA did not absorb the unit in Nairobi. When transferring to the office of the Vice President and Ministry of Finance, a fact, which has deprived the young unit of the functional expertise, they there before acquired. More than 50% of the problems facing the unit now would be attributed to lack of expertise and knowledgeable personnel.
- Quite a number of Government indents are scheduled that some urgent consignments come by air while the balance may come by sea. Documentation, paperwork and flow of document to ensure quick clearance and unnecessary delays are put at a great disadvantage by disintegrating the clearing function.
- In the field of clearing and forwarding, functional, efficiency, financial controls, standardization of documents, procedural approach and manpower development can easily be achieved by placing the whole function under one Administrative organisation.
- The Ministry of Finance handles vetting, processing and authorizing of overseas indent, insurance matters relating to Government Cargo, Air freighting and shipping matters, customs duty and sales tax matters all bearing Direct relationship to the clearing and forwarding function.
- It was therefore important for the clearing and forwarding unit be removed from supplies branch to GCA in order to enhance efficiency in the unit and save the already most worrying issues of demurrage charges.