MPs should not cover up the truth on illegal sugar imports

Some of the sugar impounded in a past sting operation in Mombasa. [File, Standard]
The circus surrounding the probe on sugar said to contain traces of mercury does not augur well Kenyans. The integrity of Parliament as an institution of repute is has been damaged after Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Trade, Industry and Cooperatives that investigated the claims gave conflicting statements with some alleging that the report that was presented last week was doctored. On Thursday, Speaker Justin Muturi deferred debate on the preliminary report because it was "presented unprocedurally".

But tellingly, Mr Muturi said some suggested amendments from members of the committee had been ignored in the final report. Those members who felt that the report had been "doctored to get some of the people indicted off the hook". In spite of the aspersions cast on him and the team he leads, the chairman of the committee, Kieni MP, Kanini Kega is insisting that all was well.

But then, where is there is smoke, there is fire. A fire that Mr Kega needs to put out, fast.

Claims that a few individuals in government have developed a peculiar interest in the report that the parliamentary committee has written must be investigated for two main reasons.

First, it is the responsibility of the government to protect and safeguard the interests of Kenyans; their health included, but someone sidestepped that duty if claims the illegally imported sugar contained harmful metals are confirmed.

Secondly, the country lost close to Sh10. 6 billion in tax evasion through the importation of illicit sugar. If we are going to fight corruption as the government has indicated, there must never be sacred cows.

Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives who believe an injustice is being perpetrated against Kenyans should bite the bullet and tell the public what they know. It is not enough to appear in the media making claims against unnamed individuals when no substantiation is forthcoming. The lives of millions of Kenyans who use sugar cannot be put at risk for political expediency.

The retreat by committee members to Mombasa to finalise on the report should not become another attempt to spare sacred cows fingered in the probe. It should also not be an unnecessary drain on the Exchequer that ends up with a doctored report. The bottom-line is that the truth must be told in black and white.

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