Agriculture ministry on the spot over Sh4.5b maize importation
Shocking details yesterday emerged of how the Agriculture ministry spent billions of shillings to import “air” under the guise of bringing maize from Mexico and Ethiopia into the country.
Members of Parliament were shocked to learn that despite the taxpayers spending Sh4.5 billion in the 2016/17 financial year for the importation of maize, it is not clear whether it was actually brought in to the country or not.
Officers from the office of the Auditor General attached to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) told the MPs that as of today, they are not in a position to confirm whether the maize was actually brought into the country or not as crucial documents to support the expenditure have not been availed to them.
The auditors said despite meetings with the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) they have not been able to resolve anything, as all the documents required including invoices have not been supplied to them.
The shocking revelations emerged at a meeting between the committee, officers from the office of the auditor general, the Ministry of Agriculture led by the Principal secretary Hamadi Boga and NCPB over the 2016/17 financial year.
MPs present during the session said it was unfortunate that while Kenyans are starving, some individuals were stealing from them.
Led by PAC chairperson Opiyo Wandayi, MPs Junet Mohammed (Suna East), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Tom Kajwang (Ruaraka) Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Kimani Kuria (Molo) sought to know whether the maize was actually imported or not.
Wandayi said it is a serious matter that the PS and the NCPB officials were unable to provide documentary evidence to prove that the maize was actually imported, three years later.
According to him, it is unfortunate that NCPB whose role is to keep records of all food supplied in the country, their work only entailed distribution of maize to farmers from the grain bulk handlers.
“Was this maize really imported or not. Or is it air that was imported? As of today it is clear that you don’t have evidence to prove that the maize was actually imported,” he said.
Junet said it is evident that as of today there is no maize that was imported into the country despite Sh4.5 billion being spent on it.
Kajwang said it is regrettable that NCPB has no payment vouchers, or evidence to show that the maize was actually imported.
Ndindi and Otiende sought to know the individuals behind the importation of the maize, the beneficiaries and the payment vouchers.
Boga who defended the ministry was, however, unable to provide evidence as to whether the maize was actually imported in to the country or not.
“We acknowledge that we have heard a problem with Strategic Food Reserve (SFR), NCPB and the ministry. I want to tell you that we have the same concerns like you members but we are fixing it,” said the PS.
On the other hand, NCPB operations manager Jones Kanya who took part in the deal was unable to confirm whether he was aware of the country of origin of the maize or not.
Kanya told MPs that the role of NCPB was to record the maize and ensure the same was supplied to the millers and farmers from Mombasa as the work of importation was being done by a multi-agency team that included Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).