Kiunjuri, PS face probe over Sh1.8b payment to company
Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, his Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga and officials at the Treasury’s Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) are facing questions over the expenditure of Sh1.8 billion “without authorisation”.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) confirmed that it had opened investigations into the expenditure following claims that Agriculture ministry officials had authorised expenditure without approval of the Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund, contrary to the Public Finance Management Act.
The money was withdrawn from the accounts of the Trust Fund at the Central Bank and paid to a private company, whose director is also on the EACC radar, as pending bills allegedly for maize imported in 2017.
Detectives are keen to establish where the Sh200 million converted into US dollars went.
But last evening, Jaffer denied any links with Commodity House Limited but said he was ready to face the EACC over any queries.
“I am not linked with that company in anyway whatever. But if the EACC want to get any information from me, I am ready to do so. I have always done all my businesses above board,” Jaffer said.
The EACC detectives, who are also set to question CBK officials over the matter, have already questioned the chief accounting officer at the State department of Crop development Joyce Mutugi and another official, Charles Minjire.
EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak yesterday disclosed that detectives had so far established that the payment was made yet there was no budget for the same.
“The ministry has so far explained there was no budget or funds for importation of maize during the financial year 2018/2019, therefore, they do not have documents to back their argument,” said Mbarak of a matter that has also been the subject of a probe by the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture.
In tracking the payment, detectives said they had established that Sh2 billion was paid to the Commodity House Limited on June 25, 2019 from CBK’ Strategic Bank Reserve Account but was reversed on June 28, 2019, only for Sh1.8 billion to be wired back to a bank in Mombasa.
The payment to the bank in Mombasa is said to have been authorised by Kiunjuri, Boga and officials from the Treasury’s Ifmis department.
Kiunjuri has in the past appeared before MPs over the matter and maintained that the payment was genuine and that his ministry was adhering to a presidential directive to clear pending bills.
The CS said the ministry had pending bills dating back to 2017 to various entities, including Commodity House (Sh3.6 billion), millers (Sh2.6 billion), Dolphin (Sh61 million) and ETG (Sh400 million), adding that his ministry sought clearance from Treasury before making payment.
But the chairman of the Strategic Food Reserve Board, Noah Wekesa, said the Sh1.8 billion, which he said was withdrawn without the board’s approval, was part of the Sh12 billion meant to clear debts owed to maize farmers and purchase of the current harvest.
In a letter to Boga, Wekesa said: “The purpose of this letter is to seek your indulgence as to why you made such a huge withdrawal to the tune of Sh1.8 billion without the authorisation of the oversight board as required by law.”
Wekesa dismissed the CS’s claims that the payment was for pending bills, saying payment of pending bills to traders and merchants featured in Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board meeting held on 20th June 2019 and did not receive the approval of the board.
The board’s priority, he said, was to clear the maize farmers’ pending bills, pay part of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) debt and budget for purchase of 2019/20 maize harvests.
The Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund was established four years ago to help stabilise food supply and prices by procuring and storing adequate stocks of food.
Some MPs from the maize growing belt have asked the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and the EACC to investigate Kiunjuri over the possible loss of public money.
MPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Robert Pukose (Endebes), Marwa Maisuri (Kuria East) and Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) said it was not right for Kiunjuri to continue being in office amid such allegations.
But Kiunjuri, who has not hidden his political ambitions and is seen to cast his lot with Deputy President William Ruto, has dismissed the allegations as a witch-hunt.
Two weeks ago, an Executive order by the President moved the Irrigation department from the Agriculture Ministry to the Water and Sanitation that is under Simon Chelugui.