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Grain Bulk Handlers Limited (GBHL) machines (on the right-hand side) sacks maize from the MV Pinehurst direct to the GBHL silos after the ship docked at the port of Mombasa loaded with 30,000 metric tonnes of maize from Mexico for the Kenyan consumption, May 15, 2017. [Gedion Maundu, Standard]

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Watchdog committee orders Agriculture PS to produce all vouchers of the purchase by next Tuesday.

The state paid Sh4.5 billion for maize from Mexico that was never delivered, it has emerged.

In a revelation that could turn into another major corruption scandal in the country, MPs were yesterday told that Agriculture ministry imported maize worth Sh11.6 billion in 2017, but only maize worth Sh7 billion was delivered.

It is also not clear whether the maize was actually imported from Mexico or supplied by well-connected individuals in the country during an acute shortage of maize in 2017.

This was after the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) said it was not involved in the deal at the stage of importation but was only involved after the produce had “already reached” Mombasa Port.

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NCPB Operations Manager John Kanyaa told the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the board’s role was reduced to providing logistics of delivering the imported maize to various millers across the country.

In March 2017, questions were raised when the import arrived in the country in a record three days after the Government ordered for the importation of the produce to cushion Kenyans from acute shortage of the stable food that had occasioned a spike in maize prices.

PAC Chairman Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), MPs Jessica Mbalu (vice-chairperson), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kuria Kimani (Molo), Junet Mohammed (Suna East) and Florence Mutua (Busia) said the amount could have been pocketed by individuals who supplied “air”.

“Did NCPB import air because it seems maize worth over Sh4 billion was not delivered?” wondered Wandayi.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Junet who said that some connected individuals could have pocketed the money for supplying nothing.

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“It seems there was no maize imported. People were paid Sh4.5 billion for supplying nothing,” said Junet.

He said importation of maize has been turned into a cash cow by State officers out to make killing any time the country is facing a food crisis.

He said it was suspect that the Government was always ready to import maize at higher prices but decline to purchase locally produced maize.

Consequently, the watchdog committee ordered that Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga produce all the vouchers of the purchase by next Tuesday, failure to which the committee will make a conclusion that billions were paid out for people who supplied “air” to the ministry.

Office of the Auditor-General said only vouchers for Sh7 billion maize imports were available for audit.

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“The statement of financial performance reflects an amount of Sh11,672,958, 682 under the cost of sales. However, payment vouchers supporting the expenditure totaling Sh4,494,724,000 relating to the importation of maize have not been provided for audit verification,” states the audit.

PS Boga admitted that there was a problem with the board and committed that the ministry was undertaking radical reforms to clean the State agency that has been riddled with claims of corruption.

Multi-agency team

Kanyaa earlier explained to the committee that the Government imported the maize through a multi-agency team that involved Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Revenue Authority, and other agencies.

He said the process was spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture. He said it was after the maize was delivered at the Mombasa Port that NCPB was involved.

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“The maize was imported through Agriculture Ministry. NCPB’s role was to receive the maize and distribute to millers,” he said.

He further revealed that some maize was also imported from Ethiopia but could not confirm the quantity of maize the agency distributed.

PS Boga, who joined the ministry after the purchase, at some point found himself hard-pressed why the ministry was unable to provide the vouchers two years since the purchase.

“The way we had prepared ourselves is not detailed... I would ask that the committee give us more time to prepare,” Prof Boga told the committee.

Mexico maize NCPB PAC Maize imports

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