Minister and PS face probe over Sh1.8b payment

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri (L) with his Agricultural Research PS Prof. Hamadi Boga and NCPB MD.Albin Sang when they appeared before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Maize.
A Cabinet secretary, his principal secretary and top Treasury officials will be interrogated over claims that the ministry spent Sh1.8 billion irregularly.

The money was withdrawn from the accounts of the Strategic Food Reserve Trust fund at Central Bank and paid to a private company as pending bill.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has opened investigations into the matter following claims that officials at the Ministry of Agriculture authorised the payment without prior approval of the oversight board and contrary to the Public Finance Management Regulations of 2015.

Transferred Sh1.6b

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Preliminary findings show Commodity House Limited, a firm linked to a Mombasa businessman, received the said amount on July 1, 2019, and transferred Sh1.6 billion on July 2, 2019, to Hydery Limited and converted the balance of Sh200 million into US dollars.

The EACC detectives say they have so far questioned chief accounting officer at the State department of crop development Joyce Mutugi and another official Charles Minjire over the matter.

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and his PS Hamadi Boga, officials at the Treasury’s Integrated Financial Management Information System, who authorised the payment and those from the Central Bank, are lined up for questioning anytime, officials aware of the plans said.

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Businessman Mohamed Jaffer is also expected to be questioned over the issue.

EACC CEO Twalib Mbarak said they had established that payment was made, yet there was no budget.

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So far, it has been established that Sh2 billion was paid to Commodity House on June 25 from CBK Strategic Bank Reserve Account.

The amount was for supply of maize to the National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB). But the payment was later reversed on June 28, 2019.

A payment of Sh1.8 billion was made to Commodity House Limited on June 28, 2019, from CBK for a pending bill of maize supply to NCPB. The money was paid to a bank in Mombasa.

Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund chair Noah Wekesa had complained the agency had been kept in the dark as payments were made.

“Your disclosure of the payment of Sh1.8 billion from the Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund Central Bank Account to Commodity House without the board’s approval was against the law,” Wekesa said in a letter dated July 9.

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Additional debts

He added that settlement of additional debts would no doubt deplete the reserve and destabalise the work plan of the Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board.

Some MPs also protested the payment, demanding the resignation of Mr Kiunjuri and Prof Boga for delayed payment of farmers. The MPs included Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Silas Tiren (Moiben), Caleb Amisi (Saboti), David Pukose (Endebess), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Marwa Maisori (Kuria East).

Kiunjuri said the ministry was only adhering to a presidential directive that all bills be cleared within a month. He, however, said the question on the legality of the withdrawal could only be answered by the PS.

The CS said the ministry sought clearance from Treasury.

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Cabinet secretaryEthics and Anti-Corruption Commission