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More intrigues in probe into fake fertiliser saga

National
Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi holding samples of fertilizer taken from KEL Chemicals factory which is under controversy of fake fertiliser. [Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) is to blame for exposing farmers to fake and sub-standard fertilisers, Members of Parliament have said.

Details submitted before the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday showed that the agency did not test all the fertilisers supplied to farmers by 11 companies from 2022.

Kebs Managing Director Esther Ngari told senators that the agency was not involved in the procurement, testing or distribution of the fertiliser that ultimately made it to farms.

“ I want to clarify that Kebs was not involved in the procurement, distribution or even testing of fertiliser under the government subsidy programme. The process was managed by other designated government agencies,” Ngari submitted.

The James Murango-led committee also heard that the agency was not aware of fake fertiliser flooding the market, until after receiving a tip off from a farmer through social media.

This, she said, was because “no entity had requested Kebs to verify the quality of the fertilizer being distributed”.

“The documents provided to the procurement agency showing that we had okayed the manufacture of fake fertiliser did not originate from us. We did not certify the flagged fertiliser. No such request came to us,” she added.

The House team, however, accused Kebs of laxity and sought to know why it had seemingly abdicated its role.

“So what you are telling this committee is that there is a possibility that all the fertiliser supplied to farmers under the programme could have been fake since you did not have the opportunity to inspect them?” posed chair Murango.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo brought out the contradiction which is that the fertiliser distributed bore the mark of Kebs yet the agency claimed not to have verified the same.

“Is it not your duty to inspect the quality of fertiliser before the same is distributed to farmers? It is very strange that the bags which were later found to contain fake or substandard fertiliser had your symbol,” said Maanzo.

Kitui Senator Enock Wambua said he suspects collusion between private companies and individuals in various government agencies to dupe farmers.

“From where I sit, this conspiracy runs deeper than we think. At some point, we shall be apportioning blame on all agencies involved. What part of the blame is Kebs willing to bear?” posed Wambua.

Ngari, on her part, blamed other government institutions for not ascertaining the quality of goods. 

Referring to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, revised in 2022, she said that that for goods, works, or services involving technical specifications, the responsibility to confirm their quality and quantity, as well as to issue a certification, falls on the relevant technical department or the professionals engaged for that purpose.

The MD further explained that after receiving a tip-off in January this about potentially sub-standard GPC-branded fertiliser in the market, Kebs proactively reached out to NCPB to secure samples for thorough testing.

At the same time, questions have emerged whether Mems Distributors Limited colluded with the NCPB officials to win the tender bid of supplying 616,000 bags of NPK 10:26:10 without prequalification documents.

Its CEO Collins Ngetich said he supplied the fertiliser without being required to produce the performance bond surety of Sh250 million but later withdrew it which was against standard procedure.

Senator Wambua noted: “I take the position that in this tendering there is a blurry line between NCPB and Ngetich. Perhaps, Mems has more information on this tender than we know about.”

He also sought to know why a crisis meeting was held at Harambee House and not Kilimo House and the role of the Head of Public Service Felix Koskei in the matter at that stage.

“What’s the Head of Public Service supposed to do with a dispute between Mems Distributors and KEL Chemicals?” posed the Kitui senator.

 

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