Recover assets from maize scam -Senate

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The EACC and DCI should trace and recover wealth that was illegally acquired by individuals using proceeds from the maize scandal, a committee of the Senate has recommended.

A report tabled on Tuesday by the ad hoc committee that investigated the maize crisis in the country also recommends “widening of the scope” of investigation to nab the culprits.

In October, CS Mwangi Kiunjuri tabled in Parliament the names of 152 companies and individuals who delivered maize to NCPB and were under investigation. They had been paid about Sh2 billion, with outstanding claims amounting to Sh1.4 billion to date.

So far, the EACC and DCI have cleared 90 of them to get paid, while 60 are under further investigation.

The committee chaired by Uasin Gishu senator Margaret Kamar further wants National Treasury CS Henry Rotich and Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri to take full responsibility for the gazette notices that led to the influx of maize imports and distortion of the market to the disadvantage of local farmers.

“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions must ensure the investigations in these matters are not open ended but concluded expeditiously and those found culpable prosecuted forthwith,” the committee says.

Read: Rift MPs now want Ruto probed over maize crisis

The committee toured maize growing areas and met farmers and other stakeholders.

Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe, former NCPB managing director Newton Terer and former finance general manager Cornel Kiprotich were charged with mismanagement of money set aside for purchase of maize.

Kiunjuri said the ministry has received Sh9.4 billion, which includes the Sh7 billion that was paid between October 2017 and February 2018.

Another Sh1 billion was paid in May and Sh1.4 billion this month.

Kiunjuri said 1,200 farmers were paid the Sh1 billion received in May 2018. The Sh1.4 billion received on September 20 was to pay 900 farmers who had been vetted and cleared by the Multi-Agency Verification Team.

MYSTERY

According to the report, importation of duty-free maize in 2017 was shrouded in mystery. Each government agency that appeared before the committee gave conflicting statements and figures.

The committee faulted the government for allowing the importation of duty-free maize which flooded the market. It noted that the open-ended importation was a ploy by both public and private sector players to profit from distortion of the maize value chain. It found discrepancies in the figures provided by the Ministry of Agriculture on the quantities of maize imported.

“In addition, the Gazette Notices No 3575 dated April 13, 2017, No 6398 dated July 3, 2017, and 7248 dated July 27, 2017, were open-ended and done without any valid reasons and justification,” the committee observed.

“The government’s inconsistent, incoherent policies and pronouncements on maize importation led to massive importation of maize without proper control, leading to over-importation and massive revenue loss,” the report says.

It goes on to criticise the ministry for haphazard decisions and failure to conduct due diligence. It concludes that the government was being economical with the truth on the quantities imported.

Read: Murkomen, Kutuny tear into each other over Ruto role in maize scam

“The minutes tabled before the committee by the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that whereas there was an approval for importation of six million bags of maize for the subsidy programme, 10.5 million bags were imported. In yet another instance, the meeting of the inter-ministerial committee, erratically authorised the immediate clearance and discharge of maize docked at the port of Mombasa without proper documentation.

“In the opinion of the Committee, much more maize than was officially reported was imported.”

The most shocking revelation to the committee was that, according to KRA, different importers sold maize to the ministry through NCPB at a profit.

STANDARDS

The committee noted that there was no evidence that there were standards and quality checks by Kenya Bureau of Standards at the ports of entry during the duty-free maize importation period.

The committee also recommends that the Agriculture CS develops regulations and guidelines on importation of maize and other food crops and table them before the Senate within 45 days.

“Government agencies should maintain accurate records, without which they must be held responsible and accountable in accordance with the law,” said the Senate committee.

“There is no definite policy on who is supposed to deliver maize to NCPB and how many bags an individual can deliver. The NCPB has been putting in place administrative measures to ensure that genuine farmers deliver maize but these measures have been flouted by local vetting committees,” the reports states.

On September 13, the committee directed Kebs to carry out sampling and testing according to the quality standards for all maize stored in the NCPB silos. The results showed that 63.3 percent of the stored maize was substandard.

Also See: Maize saga haunts Ruto in Rift Valley

The committee accused the national government of holding onto agricultural functions and attendant resources despite clear constitutional and legal provisions that show that these are devolved functions under county governments.

“Despite agriculture being a fully devolved function, the committee noted that county governments were at the very least unaware of their role in promoting agriculture in their respective counties, and at the very most looked like helpless bystanders as farmers continued to suffer,” the report observes.

The committee also wants the government to immediately pay all the farmers who have not been paid with interest for the delayed dues.

On the other hand, county governments should construct a database of farmers to ensure proper identification for purposes of maize deliveries, payments, provision of subsidies and other services.

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By Kenyan Digest

The Kenyan Digest Team