Detectives are investigating Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya for ordering the unconditional release of edible oil worth Sh10 billion impounded over a year.
The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) has also been sucked into the controversy after it wrote to the importer -M/S Maybros Limited - communicating the waiver of fortification requirements under (KEAS 769:2014) that had led to the seizure of the consignment.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was apparently blindsided in the communications between Kebs, the Trade ministry, the importer, Commissioner Customs and Border Control and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
DCI argues it is unclear whether the product will be sold to companies for further processing or will be sold directly to consumers without being fortified with Vitamin C since the ministry did not set any conditions for release.
In a letter, Kebs acting Managing Director Bernard Njiraini told M/S Maybros Kenya Limited that Mr Munya authorised the release. The letter was copied to Customs and Border Control Commissioner Kevin Safari and KPA Managing Director Dan Manduku.
“Reference is made to the letter ref. MOT/ADM/1/43/VOL XXXVI dated August, 1 2019 from the Ministry of Trade on the approval of waiver of fortification requirements under (KEAS 769:2014) for impounded edible oil consignment, the CS has granted you waiver,” Mr Njiraini says in the letter.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the seizure and the order for reshipment communicated to you earlier has been lifted and the consignment shall be released to you unconditionally,” he adds.
“By a copy of this, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and KPA are advised accordingly. Please note that this waiver is only applicable to the indicated consignment and does not constitute into a waiver of the requirement for the future importation.”
But DCI boss George Kinoti questioned the release and said that “Kenyans should be informed that the product released lacks vitamin A which is a requisite requirement in importing it”.
“Why should we release substandard goods without any attached condition?” he asked. He was not forthright on whether he will allow the commodity into the market or not even as he trained his guns on Munya.
“I will not hesitate to invite the CS for questioning. The same will apply to other officials,” stated Kinoti.
The DCI has also faulted a request by Mr Njirani to release a container of fertiliser before a dispute over conflicting test results on its quality is resolved.
In a letter to Njirani, Kinoti also flagged out two salient issues, taking note of corresponding letters to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and copied to him from the chief executive officer of Osho Chemical Industries Limited concerning the matter.
“I have perused the letter and accompanying documents and since the standard used in both tests was the same, we would wish to know how scientifically the moisture content and PH disappeared after three months to enable the organic mature to comply between November, 6, 2018 and January 1 2019,” Kinoti demanded.
He questioned how the original laboratory test in November had found the fertiliser substandard. Kinoti added that the fertiliser had lower magnesium content than the stipulated minimum.
“You have hence recommended the fertiliser to be re-shipped back to the country of origin,” he stated.
“The same fertiliser was re-tested on December 21, 2018 under the same standard and found to comply with the requirements. We wish to know the kind of scientific process that raised the magnesium content so as to apply,” he added.
Kinoti has therefore, demanded an explicit explanation leading to the same test but different results.
“Bear in mind that this may border on criminal complicity and conspiracy to defeat justice in a view of the grave danger to release for sale what may harm or cause death,” he cautioned Njiraini.
He copied the same to Dr Matiang’i, PSs Kibicho Karanja (Interior), Betty Maina (Investment and Industry), Multi-Agency Team Chairman Wanyama Musiambo, Kenya Association of Manufacturers CEO Phyllis Wakiaga, Director Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and director of Public Health Kepha Omabacho.
In June, 2018 a group of oil importers protested the continued detention of their products at the Mombasa port and requested their release.
The group of 51 importers even wrote to President Uhuru Kenyatta saying they were at risk of incurring huge losses. They asked the Government to give them an amnesty period on all edible oil products imported before June 30, 2018.
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