Hi, I’m Amir Taheri and I work at the British Army Training Unit Kenya, also known as BATUK. I’m one of a number of DIO staff here, working alongside personnel from the Army and local civilians working for the MOD.
BATUK is based mainly in Nanyuki, 200 km north of Nairobi, and provides logistic support to visiting Army units training in Kenya.
The MOD has an agreement with the Kenyan government for between three and six Light Role Infantry Battle Groups and Specialised Infantry Battalions to carry out six-week exercises every year. There are also one or two Royal Engineer Squadron exercises per year which focus on the development of the training estate infrastructure and providing support to some construction tasks. There’s also one medical company group deployment every year.
Nanyuki is the next stop-over to and from the training areas. We are transitioning from our location at Nanyuki Show Ground (NSG) to our new home at Laikipia Air Base (East), which is projected to be completed by Summer 2019. Laikipia Air Base (East) is a significant upgrade over our current facilities at the NSG.
One of DIO's roles here is the provision of Substitute Service Families Accommodation (SSFA) and Substitute Single Living Accommodation (SSLA) which is rented from the local market.
I am the new Business Support Officer, supporting the Business Manager and Housing Co-ordinator in delivering high-quality SSFA and SSLA. I arrived here in June 2017 after working at the Defence Section in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Working within the constraints of an already established team the importance of good records and management practices has been highlighted early on and maintaining and improving this will be a challenge, but a necessary one to ensure personnel and their families live in properties fit for purpose and that costs for repairs are correctly attributed.
My work involves coordinating between the Garrison Engineer’s Department and landlords over fault repairs and ensuring landlords meet the obligations set out in the leases.
There is a great deal of managing expectations with occupants and various stakeholders as a result of housing stock being rented from landlords rather than owned by the Ministry of Defence. It is important that we maintain a good understanding of Kenyan housing law and our leases, which although very similar to the UK, have certain distinct differences. This allows us to hold landlords to account effectively.
I hope to develop and maintain a robust process to ensure there is consistency in the way in which we deal with faults and that Service personnel and their families are not unnecessarily inconvenienced.
I have to strike a balance between maintaining good relations with our landlords while ensuring they meet our expectations for occupants to be able to live in good quality, decent housing. This can be quite difficult because the standards of workmanship we are used to expecting in the UK do not necessarily apply here and many properties are not built to UK specification. This is improving, as landlords realise we are a huge market and good tenants and develop properties to try and cater to our demand.
Impressions of Kenya
My first impressions of Kenya have been hugely positive, although I acknowledge that there are many challenges working here, such as dealing with more bureaucracy than I am used to. I have found the people warm and polite and that Kenya is truly blessed with a beautiful environment.