Senators want Bett and Rotich out over protracted maize wars

High Commissioner to India Nominee Willy Bett during the vetting before the National Assembly Defence and Foreign Relations at County hall, Nairobi on Thursday 22/02/18. [Photo: Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Senators want a Cabinet secretary and his former colleague held responsible for maize scandal.

In a damming report tabled in the Senate by ad hoc committee chaired by Prof Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) on the maize crisis in country, the senators said a Gazette notice by National Treasury CS Henry Rotich and former Agriculture CS Willy Bett opened a floodgate for unscrupulous dealers to deliver maize to National Strategic Reserve.

The committee established that maize imported by different dealers was sold to the Ministry of Agriculture through National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at a profit.

Genuine farmers

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Senators regretted that genuine farmers are yet to be paid their dues since the money allocated to pay them was diverted to pay traders, brokers and ghost farmers.

They noted that the Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board term had expired during the maize crisis, and could not authorise payments to farmers during the period.

“Rotich and Bett must take responsibility for the Gazette notice. The minister should develop regulations and guidelines on importation of maize and other food crops and table them before the Senate within 45 days," said the committee.

According to the committee’s findings, there was no evidence that there were standards and quality checks by Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) at the ports of entry during the duty-free maize importation period.

In light of all this, on September 13, 2018, the committee directed Kebs to carry out sampling and testing on maize stored in the NCPB silos.

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“Shockingly, Kebs reported to the committee that 63.3 per cent of maize stored was substandard,” said Kamar.

Data by KRA showed 1,800 metric tonnes was imported through Malaba One Stop Border Point during the period yet when the committee visited the entry point, it was discovered that 12,400 metric tonnes was received and a further 43,100 at Busia.

The senators noted that the figures did not include other entry points from Uganda namely Kisumu, Sio Port, Karungu Bay, Muhuru Bay, Suam, Lukhaka and Chepkube.

“This is despite the well-known fact that Uganda is not a major maize producer leading to the possibility that the maize could have been from non-EAC/Comesa region. Further, the committee noted that Kenya’s partners in the EAC had protested the Gazette notice on duty-free maize importation,” reads the report.

Fraudulent activities

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The senators noted that the fraudulent activities at NCPB gave brokers an edge over genuine farmers who are yet to be paid to date.

They now want the Government to recover ill-gotten wealth through fictitious deliveries to the NCPB.

“The importation of duty-free maize in 2017 was shrouded in mystery, as each Government agency which appeared before the committee gave conflicting statements and figures,” the Prof Kamar-led committee established.

The committee recommended that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations recover any unlawfully acquired wealth from individuals linked to the maize scandal.

The committee observed that from the EACC investigation report, Sh4.5 billion was paid to only 146 individuals with 20 out of them receiving Sh2.1 billion.

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SenatorsGazette noticeCS Henry RotichCS Willy BettMaize scandal