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MPs, top politician’s aide probed over maize scam

Published Thu, May 24th 2018 at 00:00, Updated May 23rd 2018 at 23:32 GMT +3

At least five lawmakers, an aide to a top politician, senior Government officials and businessmen are among 30 individuals being investigated in connection with a multi-billion shilling scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board, according to sources.

Prominent politicians from the Rift Valley are reportedly among eight traders paid Sh1.9 billion – which works out to Sh700 million in profits – for deliveries to the national strategic reserve that are believed to be cheap imports from Uganda.

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“The people we are talking about are not ordinary Kenyans. They are big shots including MPs. The President has received the intelligence briefing and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti should be on it,” said a senior Government official.

Mr Kinoti did not respond to our inquiries yesterday.

The payments to the influential persons were at the expense of ab out 4,000 farmers who are stuck with their produce.

There have been claims that maize delivered by some farmers was rejected on grounds that it did not pass the test in a scheme to create opportunities for cartels.

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The Sh1.9 billion paid to the eight farmers on average translates to Sh237,500,000 for each. At the price of Sh3,200 that NCPB paid for a 90kg bag, this means each of the eight traders would have supplied 74,219 bags.

With an estimated harvest ratio of 25 bags an acre – realistically the yield is far less – to produce 74,219 bags one would require 2,970 acres of land.

Questions have been raised about farming on eight such plantations, with reports indicating that the maize was imported from Uganda, where traders purchased a bag for Sh2,000.

The eight traders based around Uasin Gishu – the country’s food basket – were said to have who colluded with NCPB officials, some of whom have been suspended, to earn the abnormal profits.

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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said while no money was lost in the procurement scandal, poor farmers were cheated.

“We did not lose any money but I can say we lost opportunity, which could even be bigger,” said after a conference on fighting the fall armyworm that was attended by scientists in Karen, Nairobi yesterday.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe said the board should have bought the maize of the poor farmers before entertaining brokers.

“I would not have a problem if they had finished buying all the maize from our farmers first,” said Mr Lesiyampe.

He promised to release a detailed report on Tuesday once an ongoing audit of the beneficiaries was completed.

The PS indicated that the preliminary report unveiled the goings-on at the board but dismissed claims of the involvement of top Government officials and politicians.

There has been pressure from various quarters, including the National Assembly, to name the culprits. Kiunjuri and Lesiyampe are expected to appear today before a parliamentary Agriculture Committee to answer questions on the scandal.

The duo had been summoned to appear yesterday but said the notice was too short.

Farmers are facing huge losses because the market is flooded while the national reserve is full and cannot accommodate any fresh deliveries.

The few that were lucky enough to deliver their produce have had to endure long waiting periods before being paid.

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