Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri spills beans on maize scandal
- The suspected interference of the weighbridges used to detect the number of kilos brought in by traders at the NCPB depots may have led the government into declaring the quantity of maize that it does not have.
- The inventory will involve a physical count of all the bags held in various NCPB depots across the country.
- The government has so far paid only Sh8.1 billion with farmers demanding the remaining Sh3.6 billion.
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The government may have lost billions of shillings in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) maize scandal after concerns were raised over how the weighbridges at the facility were operated, a parliamentary committee was told on We dnesday.
The suspected interference of the weighbridges used to detect the number of kilos brought in by traders at the NCPB depots may have led the government into declaring the quantity of maize that it does not have.
The revelation comes as Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri on Wednesday said that the ministry would take an inventory in 21 days to determine whether the six million bags of maize claimed to have been delivered by traders to NCPB are actually in the stores. The inventory will involve a physical count of all the bags held in various NCPB depots across the country.
Mr Kiunjuri, who appeared before the Agriculture committee of the National Assembly, said that some powerful individuals (he did not name them) were behind the traders who made huge deliveries to NCPB, the custodian of the countryâs strategic grain reserve, at the expense of farmers.
âSomebody powerful was beh ind these unscrupulous traders and the truth will come out once the audit is done,â Mr Kiunjuri told the committee, even as he ruled out the possibility of government buying more maize from farmers who still have the produce.
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The six million bags are valued at Sh11.6 billion. However, the government has so far paid only Sh8.1 billion with farmers demanding the remaining Sh3.6 billion.
The committee, chaired by Mandera South MP Adan Haji, is investigating the NCPB scandal where about eight traders, who were vetted for the supply of maize but failed to qualify, were paid Sh2 billion at the expense of real farmers. The amount is enough to pay about 1,000 farmers.
But even as Mr Kiunjuri and Moiben MP Silas Tiren defended the farmers, some committee members like Mr Caleb Kositany (Soy) among others appeared to defend the traders, saying that there is nothing wrong as the government got the maize.
Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter had come as a friend of the committee but later stormed out, saying it does not meet the expectations of farmers.
The government had set a premium price of Sh3,200 per 90kg bag of maize delivered to NCPB. Unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the price to import the commodity from Uganda and later sell it to the government.
Others took the opportunity to buy from farmers at a lower price. The CS noted that suspicious happenings at the NCPB were reported to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in March but, so far, no action has been taken by the investigative agencies.
For instance, Ms Celest ine Chepchirchir is said to have made 786 deliveries to the Eldoret depot of 226,108 bags of maize and got paid Sh400 million.
Ms Chepchirchir is said to have made the deliveries in 102 days, amounting to about seven trips per day, which the CS questioned.
The CS also revealed that an internal audit showed that three traders had their identity cards used by three other different people who made their supplies to NCPB.
Among those who had their ID cards used more than once include Ms Chepchirchir, Ms Alice Wanjiku, who delivered 39,869 bags in Eldoret, and Mr Stephen Kiprop Maiyo who supplied 109,506 bags at the Eldoret depot and 32,107 bags at the Kisumu depot.
âAn officer from the ministry recorded a statement with the EACC so that investigations could begin,â the CS said, adding that his Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe called the DCI and sent another officer to record a statement on the anomalies.
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