Audits in flower farms: belying the truth

March 31, 2020

By Nancy Njoroge

While an audit inspection in a flower farm is supposed to reflect both strength and weaknesses of the systems of the flower farms, the reality is different. Interviews with workers in these flower farms reveal that the management of the farms have made audits pointless. They said the audits have been turned in routine exercises, whose impact is not being felt by the workers.

Carolyn Wawira (not her real name due to the sensitivity of the matter), a flower farm worker in Naivasha, says they are forewarned ahead of audits and asked to appraise their flower farms or else they will lose their jobs.

“This is where you fend for your daily livelihood. If you say bad things to the auditor and we are barred from operation, you will lose your job. We are reminded to keep this at the back of our minds as we talk to the auditor,” says Wawira.

Eunice Waweru, the Director of Workers’ Rights Watch, who was giving training to the workers in this particular farm on their rights, emphasized to them that if they did not tell an auditor the challenges they were facing, then the issues would keep on happening. This landed on deaf ears. The flower farm workers wondered how they could bite the hand that feeds them. “Madam you do not understand. How do you speak ill of your employer to someone they have employed to audit the farm,” said one staff, who requested not be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

This shows the dilemma workers in the flower farms face when it comes giving feedback about the treatment they undergo at the hands of their employees. This case is not isolated to Naivasha flower farms only. Workers from other flower farms in Kenya shared the same sentiments during the validation of a baseline report on voluntary social certification schemes and other corporate accountability mechanisms in the horticulture sector.

During the by Kenya Human Rights Commission function, Monica Masibo, a flower farm worker in Thika, gave a testimony of how her employer monitored what she was saying during one of the international audits. “The Human Resource Manager could even go as far as standing behind you while you spoke. I had to appraise the firm. I cannot risk losing my job,” she said. “Some of the things I was asked included the premiums given to employees as a result of the donations made from selling flowers. I had not heard of that but I had to lie that we receive many things, which the management had told the certification team they give to us,” Ms Masibo added.

But some workers said in the cases where they say the truth, they do not feel the difference that audit brings into their lives. Some workers even accused auditors of being insincere. “Even if you say what is ailing the farm to the auditor, the issues do not feature in the final report. They must be collaborating with management,” a visibly annoyed flower farm worker from Meru said.

These sentiments indicate that the contents of the audit reports might not be a true reflection of the situation in a given flower farm. It is also emerging that intimidation and threats are use to make the workers give the auditors the positive stories of their companies. The workers, who are desperate to protect their jobs, abide by the demands of the management. There is need to change how these audits are done so that they bring out the true picture of what is happening in the flower farms.