A court has ordered the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) to pay a lawyer Ksh10 million for mistakenly blacklisting her as a loan defaulter.
Justice James Makau also ordered Helb to apologise to Eunice Ng’ang’a in at least two national newspapers for embarrassing and tarnishing her name.
“This Court takes judicial notice to the fact that whoever is ever listed by any of the Credit Reference Bureaus (CRBs) following adverse information or report cannot be taken as a person worthy granting a loan or doing business with otherwise. The person loses all respect and dignity,” Justice Makau said.
“I am alive to the fact that an adverse report from CRB is not a light joke and no prudent business person would go about giving a loan or entering into a business contract with someone who has an adverse report from CRB.”
In 1995, Ms Ng’ang’a unsuccessfully applied for a Helb loan. Interestingly, the HELB later gave Sh8,000 to Maseno University as a loan intended for Ng’ang’a’s education even though Mr Ng’ang’a never learned in the institution in the first place.
For about 21 years Helb kept quiet about the loan yet its rules dictate a loanee to begin repayment of funds paid to him or her one year after finishing education.
Helb insisted that it pursued Ng’ang’a many times between 1999 and 2016, requesting her to return the Sh8,000 but she was evasive. Ng’ang’a countered the agency’s accusations, saying notwithstanding having secured admission to Maseno University, she never joined the institution and hence did not use the loan.
Helb reversed the money on 15th of February 2016. Yet, in 2018, it emailed her informing her that she had been filed with the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) as a defaulter. Helb maintained in its court records that her name was mistakenly flagged due to a malfunction in the system.
The admitted that in 2016 it had obtained the loan from Maseno University. Ng’ang’a had also accused Trans Union Kenya and Metropol Credit Reference Bureau Ltd who luckily turned the blame to Helb, claiming that their role was just to keep the data transmitted to them and distribute it to their subscribers.
They informed the court they removed her name in 2019 following Helb notification. Ng’ang’a stated that she had sought on many occasions to notify Helb about the mistake but the agency always instructed her to put her complaints in writing. Justice Makau stated it was odd for Helb to issue such directions.
“This was weird and wrong since the petitioner had lodged her complaint as required under Regulation 35(5) of the Credit Reference Bureau Regulation 2013,” he said.
The law demands that a CRB probe within 2 weeks after somebody has reported that he or she has been mistakenly listed. If a credit bureau does not conclude its investigation within 3 weeks, the law states it shall delete the debated information as demanded by the customer.
The judge noticed that Ng’ang’a wrote to Metropol on the first day of January last year, and by the time the 21-day petition period was over, it had not removed her name. Eunice Nganga demonstrated that despite requesting Metropol to provide her with information which Helb had given to it, the company refused.
“I wrote emails to the Credit Reference Bureau and made several telephone calls but it refused to act on my pleas,” she said.