Senators press Linturi to shed light on fake fertiliser scandal

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee over the fake Fertilizer at Parliament on April 8, 2024 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi came under fire after the Senate Agriculture Committee accused him of trying to direct them in the way they should do their work in the probe on the fake fertiliser scandal.

Linturi had sought to know whether the committee chaired by Kirinyaga Senator Kamau Murango will be asking him similar questions to those he faced when he appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture Committee on Monday.

The Cabinet Secretary's utterances irked the senators with Murango telling him that they had visited various parts of the country and they had come face to face with farmers who had purchased fake fertiliser which Linturi has on several occasions dismissed as not being factual.

“The Senate Agriculture Committee is rightly placed to handle this matter with Agriculture being a devolved function, my committee has visited several counties across the country where we have come face to face with farmers who purchased fake fertiliser we are out to champion their rights,” said Murango.

The committee chairman said that President William Ruto has already ordered for the compensation of affected farmers and Linturi who is on record saying that there is no fake fertiliser needs to shed more light on the matter.

Embu Senator Alex Mundigi insisted that they have visited various parts of the country and they have evidence of fake fertiliser and it was wrong for the CS to belittle the probe by the Senate simply because he appeared before the National Assembly over the same matter earlier in the week.

Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli said that Senate has a right to invite anyone to respond to issues that affect Kenyans and Linturi was wrong to say there is no fake fertiliser and he should apologise to Kenyans.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo maintained that it was wrong for the CS to insinuate that the two Houses are investigating the same matter saying that this shows the seriousness of the issue that is affecting millions of Kenyans.

Linturi told the senators said that he raised the matter since he wanted the committee to guide him on how to proceed having appeared before the National Assembly Agriculture committee over the same matter and he did not have a problem appearing before the Senate to respond to questions.

“I have respect for the Senate having served as a Senator, I raised these concerns so that the Senate Agriculture committee can guide me on how to proceed since I am faced with similar questions as those that I answered before the National Assembly Agriculture committee on Monday,” he said.

The CS assured that the government will compensate affected farmers by giving them alternative fertiliser as directed by the President.

Linturi reiterated that there was not fake fertiliser in the country a position which he said was unpopular arguing that some batches of substandard fertilisers had found their way in the market and the government identified them and quickly responded to address the matter.

Marsabit Senator Mohammed Chute sought to know why the CS and NCPB Managing Director Joseph Kimote had not resigned since they had failed Kenyans and it was common practice in other jurisdiction for government officials who find themselves in a similar predicament to own up.

“It is now clear that there was no subsidy fertiliser for Kenyans but a scheme to enrich a few individuals in the country, being a member of the ruling party I am disappointed that some Cabinet Secretaries and Managing Directors are failing the President who gave them a chance to serve Kenyans,” said Chute.

Linturi did not respond as to why he had not resigned while Kimote said that it was not within the mandate of NCPB to check the quality of any product saying that role belonged to Kenya Bureau of Standards and they only distribute manufactured product across the country.

“National Cereal and Produce Board had practiced due diligence and if there were issues with standards it was the prerogative of the manufacturer, it is the mandate of the Kenya Bureau of Standards to check on quality of what is manufactured and distributed across the country,” said the NCPB boss.

Kiomote told the senators that they were working with SBL Manufacturers on strictly commercial agency basis where on selling its product to farmers NCPB gets a commission with 150,000 bags distributed and a payment of Sh 28 million made to the state agency.

The senators also put the CS to task over his assertion that there were only 3,000 bags of substandard fertiliser, saying that during their tour across the country they had found out that there were thousands of bags of fake fertiliser which were in the possession of farmers across the country.

The committee raised concerns over the failure of Kenya Bureau of Standards CEO Esther Ngari to turn up yet most of the issues that were being raised touched on matters related to her office.

SBL Director Josiah Kariuki said he was not involved in fertiliser subsidy programme which was being claimed by African Uncensored CEO John-Allan Namu and he does not own a factory at Kariandusi but they had a contract with African Diatomite to distribute their product.

The Senate committee decided to engage Kariuki who was accompanied by his Advocates Danstan Omari and Cliff Ombeta since they have not found any complaint about his product and they need to engage him further when Kebs is present to establish the exact position on the matter.