Puzzle of Sh1.6b maize import papers missing from Kilimo House
Crucial evidence to prove that maize worth Sh1.6 billion was brought into the country in 2017 to cushion Kenyans against high cost of unga has gone missing from Kilimo House, headquarters of the Agriculture ministry.
Yesterday, top ministry officials, among them Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga, who appeared before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), were hard pressed to show documentation of the maize delivered for the payment to three companies.
The Sh1.6b is part of the Sh4.5b that the ministry spent to import maize in 2017 after millers increased the prices of maize flour to Sh130 per 2kg packet.
Their admission that they were unable to trace bank statements, payment vouchers and records from Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) to prove that the maize was actually delivered, deepened the mystery over the scam.
Even more puzzling was Boga’s indication that the Sh1.6 billion might have been an ‘error’ that occurred when the accounts department was reconciling the financial statements.
“After going through our cashbooks, bank statements and Ifmis system we cannot see any payments done on the companies as highlighted by the auditors,” the PS told the committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi.
He added: “I think there was an error when the accountants were preparing the accounts for the ministry. They must have used an average and that is why we don’t have any records.”
Boga said his efforts, including summoning former ministry officials who had been transferred to other dockets, to trace the documents did not bear fruit.
“We have only recovered documents to support the expenditure of Sh2.8 billion,” said the PS.
His admission came despite the Auditor General in his report for the financial year 2016/2017 raising concerns that although five companies were paid, the ministry was not able to provide documents to prove that maize was actually delivered. The companies, include Export Trading that sold the maize to the State on three different occasions and was paid Sh3.5 million, Hydrey P Limited that was paid Sh1 billion and Mombasa Maize Millers which received at Sh609 million.
The decision to nationalise the importation of maize in to the country saw the three firms allegedly selling the maize to the government at Sh3,600 per bag and later buying the same maize at Sh2,300 per bag.
Boga’s statement was backed by the ministry’s Chief Accountant Charity Muriuki, who confirmed that they mis-stated the financial statements forwarded to the Auditor General.
But committee members; Wandayi, Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Daniel Rono (Keiyo South), Patrick Makau (Mavoko), Florence Mutua (Busia Woman Representative) and Qalicha Wario (Moyale), vowed to get to the bottom of scandal until all those involved in the fake imports are brought to book. “This matter of maize imports one that this committee is ready to take all the time possible to ensure that we dig in to it until we get all the answers that we want,” said Wandayi.