Claims of diluted sugar report emerge as Muturi halts debate

Director of Public Health Kepher Ombacho when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture and Trade Committees on contraband sugar. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]
A parliamentary debate on the alleged importation of illegal and contaminated sugar failed to proceed yesterday.

This was after Members of Parliament alleged a plot to protect individuals found to be most culpable.

Speaker Justin Muturi deferred the debate to next week after a number of aggrieved members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Trade requested amendments to the report tabled in the House at 5pm on Wednesday.

With claims of report alterations to suit those under investigation in exchange for kickbacks and cosy relations with those under probe dogging the committee, members were adequately prepared to debate the matter.

But two MPs - Simba Arati (Dagoretti North) and Daniel Maanzo (Makueni) - had other ideas. They opposed an attempt to shield Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, his East African Community counterpart Adan Mohammed and Kenya's Ambassador to India Willy Bett from action.

The three were adversely mentioned in the draft report.

Furious members of the joint committee co-chaired by Kanini Kega (Kieni - trade) and Adan Haji (Mandera East -Agriculture) openly faced off and even held a meeting in the dining hall in Parliament without their leaders to seek a way forward.

Potential showdown

But Mr Muturi’s directive saved the committee from a potential showdown, as the MPs had earlier threatened to rally members to reject the report.

The speaker approved "the suggested amendments be considered by this House" and directed the House Business Committee to prioritise it for next week.

Mr Arati and Mr Maanzo are members of the committee probing the presence of contaminated sugar in the country. The sugar is suspected to contain mercury and copper.

According to the two MPs, the committee members had recommended that the three State officers should be held responsible for their actions, which they said opened the floodgates for cheap sugar imports.

According to the draft, Rotich should be held responsible for excess importation of sugar and consequent tax evasion based on Gazette Notice numbers 4536, 9801, 9802 and 10149 issued last year.

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contraband sugar.sugar importation sagaSimba Aratitreasury cs henry rotichspeaker justin muturi