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Senators train guns on CSs over maize scam

By Roselyne Obala | February 24th 2019

Nandi Senator Samson Cheragei insisted the CSs should be held responsible for their actions that greatly affected genuine farmers. [Photo, Standard]

The 2017-18 maize crisis could bring down some Cabinet Secretaries as Senators seek to apportion blame over abuse of the Maize Subsidy Programme.

This week will be a defining moment for the Senate as it deliberates on the report by the ad hoc committee that investigated the thorny issue.

A showdown looms in the House on whether it is appropriate to hold five Cabinet Secretaries to account over the mess that denied genuine farmers an opportunity to reap benefits of the government subsidy and instead advantaged crooks and traders.

The Prof Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) team documented that throughout its probe, it did not find any criteria for identification of importers either from inter-ministerial committee or from the task force on food subsidy.

The report has indicted National Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his former Agriculture counterpart Willy Bett, now Kenya’s High Commissioner to India, over their Gazette notices allowing cheap imports to flood the market, leading to distortion of price and disadvantaging local farmers.

For instance, minutes tabled before the committee by the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that whereas there was an approval for importation of six million bags of maize, the government allowed in 10.5 million bags.

Expand the net

The senators will either adopt or reject a proposed amendment by Nominated Senator Petronilla Were to expand the net of accountability and rope in all the members who sat in the inter-ministerial committee on food security.

“The committee gazetted the haphazard extension of importation of maize and allowed maize to come in when farmers were harvesting,” said Were.

“It also allowed people to import white maize, but restricted importation of yellow maize. The committee didn’t indicate how much maize should be imported.”

She said it would be wrong to exonerate the inter-ministerial committee members yet their actions caused the crisis.

The lawmakers target committee members, led by the chairman -- Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. Others who sat in the committee include Health CS Sicily Kariuki, who at the time was in charge of the Public Service, Youth and Gender docket, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa who was then in the ministry of Water and Irrigation, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri (then in Devolution and Planning).

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i also participated in the last meetings, replacing the late Joseph Nkaissery who was a member in the initial stages before his untimely demise.

The energised senators demanded inclusion of the inter-ministerial committee to apportion blame and act as a deterrent.

They said the exclusion of the CSs and Kinyua had robbed the report of “a great authenticity and the people who can carry the highest responsibility on the mess that happened.”

Ad hoc committee

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang urged his colleagues to ensure their actions don’t lead to democratisation of punishments.

“I fear that after 105 days of inquiry by the Kamar-led committee and writing its report indicting some individuals, now the senators want to expand the scope of culpability. Did the committee invite the inter-ministerial task force to defend itself?” he asked as he backed the report.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula clarified that all ministers in the committee where invited during the probe to state their role.

“The inter-ministerial proceedings and details were brought to the committee and tabled by respective ministers who head those ministries. Therefore, they were adequately represented and validly brought before us,” said Wetang’ula, who was the vice chair of the ad hoc committee.

Makueni Mutula Kilonzo Jnr was specific that the inter-ministerial committee authorised the immediate purchase of over one million bags at the cost of Sh3,200 per 90kg bag from stock held by millers.

“More importantly is the resolution of the committee that the government should immediately buy four million bags from physical stores from Mexico and 1.5 million bags from farmers,” said Mutula.

Nandi Senator Samson Cheragei insisted the CSs should be held responsible for their actions that greatly affected genuine farmers.

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