How ministry lost Sh1.6b in irregular maize imports

Agriculture and Livestock Principal Secretary Amadi Boga when he appeared before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee on audit queries. [Bonface Okendo,Standard]

At least Sh1.6 billion cannot be accounted for in questionable maize imports, it emerged yesterday.

MPs probing the Sh4.4 billion spent by the government to import maize during the 2017 food shortage were told that the Agriculture ministry has no documents to support Sh1.6 billion imports.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee were told by Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga that the ministry could only account for imports worth Sh2,483,120,000.

He said that they could not find further documents for the remaining payments.

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According to the Auditor General's report, the Sh1.6 billion was paid to Export Trading (Sh1,072,000), Hydrey (P) Ltd (Sh1,000,000,000), Export Trading (Sh1,114,00), Mombasa Maize Millers (Sh609,000,000) and Export Trading (Sh1,400,000).

But Mboga told the committee chaired by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi that there was no evidence to confirm payments of the said claims.

“After going through our cash books, bank statements and IFMIS system we cannot see any payments made,” Mboga said.

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Former Agriculture CS Willy Bett and former PS Richard Lesiyampe, who had been invited for grilling, snubbed the sittings forcing the committee to issue summons.

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri who had also been invited requested for another date to respond to the controversial transaction.

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Mboga tabled a list of 36 companies that imported maize and later sold to the government during that period. 

It emerged that some of the traders who sold the maize exorbitantly to the government doubled up as millers who later bought it from the government at a subsidised price.

According to tabled documents, the government paid up to Sh3,600 for a 90kg bag of maize but later sold it to local millers at Sh2,300.

The PS was accompanied by Strategic Food Reserve Board chairperson Noah Wekesa, who proposed that the agency be handed powers to make decisions as opposed to the current situation where decisions are made by a committee in the ministry.

He cited a case where Kiunjuri irregularly used Sh1.8 billion from their coffers to pay Commodity House without engaging the board. “It was an irregular payment because my board had not discussed the matter, we only realised that our money was missing.”

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AgricultureLivestock Principal Secretary Amadi Boga