Moses Kuria grilled over edible oils importation deal

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has denied allegations of single-sourcing procurement in the importation of edible oils by his ministry.

Appearing before the Senate in Nairobi on Wednesday, June 21, Kuria clarified that the ministry's approach in awarding tenders involved pre-qualifying suppliers within the framework agreed upon with the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA).

Kuria explained that the ministry does not receive any funding from the exchequer. As a result, to avoid being bound by a public tender that could potentially select a bidder with prices above market rates, the ministry presents its case to the PPRA.

The Trade CS, who now finds himself at the center pf the edible oils scandal said that their intention is to obtain the best possible value for money and highlighted their commitment to fair procurement practices.

"We advertise publicly for suppliers, and we have no control over who applies. We do not ask the companies to provide details of the owners. We seek the best deal and price that allows us to fulfill our statutory mandate of managing the cost of living and financial strength of our institutions," said Kuria.

According to the CS, the decision to have the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) import edible oils was made to address the increasing costs of edible oils.

He stated before the Senate that he instructed KNTC to import edible oils with the goal of retailing one kilo at Sh250.

Due to the importation of 170,000 jerri cans, the price of oil has decreased to Sh218 per liter.

Despite having multiple meetings with stakeholders in the sector, Kuria expressed disappointment that relief for Kenyans who struggle with the high costs of essential commodities remained elusive.

He asserted that the process leading to KNTC awarding a Sh8.12 billion tender to Multi Commerce FCZ for the supply of vegetable oil and a Sh1.33 billion tender to Shehena Company Limited for the supply of jerricans of edible oil was competitive and not single-sourced.

He reiterated that there was no distinction between edible oils and other commodities in terms of single sourcing.

Kuria questioned why the same level of attention wasn't preferred to rice and maize as was given to edible oil. He stated that the procurement process was open.

According to Kuria, KNTC has procured imported commodities worth Sh22.2 billion, and as of April 30, 2023, commodities worth Sh4.8 billion had been delivered.

However, no payments have been made to the suppliers as the letters of credit have yet to mature.

Kuria, who has faced criticism in recent days for his attacks on the media following the expose, alleged that five companies-Bidco, Menengai, Kappa, Pwani, and Golden Africa-enjoyed a monopoly in previous regimes at the expense of taxpayers.

He claimed the companies imported refined oil and conducted minimal value addition in Kenya while imposing a 35 per cent levy on other players in the industry.

On media attacks, the CS said he would not apologise for his remarks.

"I am not apologizing. I have been in media and there is no one pro-media more than myself. But I know the difference between media and the exercise of power without responsibility," said Kuria.