Senators want Rotich and Bett held responsible for maize scandal
High Commissioner to India Nominee Willy Bett during the vetting before the National Assembly Defence and Foreign Relations at County hall, Nairobi on Thursday 22/02/18. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]
The Senate yesterday received a damning report on how money meant for maize farmers was diverted to pay traders, brokers and ghost suppliers.
In the report tabled by an ad hoc committee inquiring into the matter, senators want Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich held responsible for the maize scandal that denied local farmers an opportunity to reap the benefits of a Government subsidy.
The lawmakers also roped in former Agriculture CS Willy Bett for his Kenya Gazette notice that opened the floodgates for cheap maize imports and gave unscrupulous traders a chance to saturate the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), edging out genuine farmers.
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Plans by the senators to amend the report to include another CS failed after Speaker Ken Lusaka directed that the report be prosecuted in its original form. The team, chaired by Senator Margaret Kamar, also recommended that substandard maize stored in NCPB silos be destroyed.
“The CSs National Treasury and Agriculture must take responsibility for these Gazette notices which led to the flooding of maize imports leading to distortion of the local market and disadvantaging the local farmers,” the Senate team stated.
According to the senators, the committee did not find any criteria for identification of maize importers either from the inter-ministerial committee or the task force on food subsidy.
“The NCPB created roadblocks and quality requirements mired with corruption. The importation of duty-free maize in 2017 was shrouded in mystery as Government agencies that appeared before the committee gave conflicting statements,” read the observations.
For instance, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) records indicated that 1.6 million tonnes of maize was imported from non-East Africa Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa regions while the ministry puts imports at 949,267.62 tonnes.
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According to Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, 3.6 million 90-kilogramme bags were received from 12,287 farmers. But the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) indicates in its probe that 10,6636 farmers supplied maize worth Sh11.3 billon.
“Shockingly, from KRA records, some suppliers who were not farmers were facilitated by NCPB officials to supply maize in large quantities using fake vetting forms,” observed the probe committee.
The report indicated that six depots and silos sampled received maize worth Sh8.7 billion, which was about 73 per cent of total deliveries.
The report noted that Sh4.4 billon was paid to only 146 individuals, with 20 receiving Sh2.1 billion.
“One of the glaring cases is of a family comprised of a mother, two daughters and a son who from NCPB records supplied maize worth Sh745 million using fake vetting forms,” stated the report.
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It also cited an audit report from the Ministry of Agriculture which highlighted a case in Bungoma County where 21 fake farmers were paid Sh563 million.
“There was endemic corruption during the purchase and payment of maize supplied by farmers during the 2017/2018 crop season resulting in very long queues. Frustrated farmers offloaded their maize to traders.”
The senators recommended that the Agriculture ministry develop regulations and guidelines on importation of maize and other foods and table these before the Senate within 45 days.
The report recommended that the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) expand the investigation on the scandal.
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“DCI and EACC should trace and recover any unlawfully acquired wealth from individuals who committed these crimes,” stated the report.