It wasn't me: Linturi says he had no role in fertiliser scam

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi on Thursday said he had no skills to test fertiliser supplied to farmers to ascertain whether it was fake or genuine.

While responding to accusations of violating consumer rights by not ensuring the manufacture and distribution of good quality goods, the CS argued that this was not part of his duties.

“Is testing goods to ensure that they are of the right quality part of your duty as Cabinet Secretary? As a matter of fact, do you even have the qualifications to allow you know that this is fake fertiliser and this is quality fertiliser?” asked Muthomi  Thionkolu in his examination in chief.

 “No, it is not part of my duty and no I do not possess such skills,” replied Linturi.

Thionkolu continued: “Would I be right therefore to say that as Cabinet Secretary, you are wholly dependent on the advice and judgement of independent agencies on this matter?”

To which the CS answered: “Correct.”

The Cabinet Secretary, who tabled his evidence before an 11-member select committee investigating the grounds of his impeachment, fought allegations levelled against him by Bumula MP Jack Wamboka and sought to convince the public he is neither the accounting officer in his ministry nor at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) thus he should not be held responsible for the procurement and distribution of fake fertiliser to farmers.

During the morning session, Linturi appeared as a witness in his own case and was led by his lawyer Muthomi Thionkolu in his defence where he poked holes into the ouster motion.

Aware of the bogus distinction he had been granted by the trial as the first Cabinet Secretary under President William Ruto to be tried by a select committee over graft and incompetence, the CS also made submissions aimed at cleansing his allegedly tainted image.

In his motion, Wamboka had accused him of gross violation of the constitution, gross misconduct and committing serious crimes.

In the particulars of the ground on Gross violation of the constitution, he was accused of violating article (2) and Article 10 (1) (c) of the constitution by allegedly acting as a state officer by acting to authorise the procurement of fake fertiliser.

Linturi through his lawyer argued that his duties as CS do not extend to making public procurement approvals and challenged the prosecution to adduce any evidence of him proving that he indeed approved the procurement of the fake fertiliser.

“I am still waiting to be shown any approval that I made on public procurement. None has come,” said Linturi in response to a query by his lawyer Muthomi Thiankolu.

“According to Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act section 69 (1), all approvals relating to any procedures in procurement shall be in writing and properly dated and filed. Have you been shown the writing through which you supposedly approved public procurement?” posed Thionkolu.

To which the CS answered in the negative,” No, I have not.”

And in his advancement of the argument that Linturi had no role in the scandal, Thionkolu proceeded to invoke section 44 of the Act which dwells on the responsibilities of an accounting officer

“I am not the accounting officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and at NCPB…I was also never part of the evaluation committees that procured the tenders. This is because in the procurement Act there is no role for the Cabinet secretary,” submitted Linturi.

And during cross-examination by Wamboka’s lawyer, John Khaminwa, he asserted that those responsible for procurement should be held accountable.

“Anyone who directly or indirectly has no responsibility under the law may not be blamed for the fake fertiliser but those people vested with the responsibility of procurement are the ones who are supposed to be answerable,” Linturi said.

The CS and his team also moved to pour cold water on allegations that he submitted false information through a letter to a departmental committee of the National Assembly on the type of fertiliser distributed to farmers and its purpose, contrary to section 29 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, Cap 185C.

Thionkolu argued that it was premature for Wamboka to conclude that the information submitted to the National Assembly Agriculture Committee was incorrect, given the fact that the John Mutunga-led committee House was yet to conclude its probe.

“The mover of the motion is not a member of the committee and only that committee, by resolution, can accuse the CS of misleading it,” stated the lawyer.

“I can only be accused through that committee unless the standing orders have changed. According to the standing orders, the committee is required to table its evidence and the report adopted by the House for it to be said that that Parliament has taken up position on any matter,” added Linturi.

He also pointed out that on the date during which he is said to have given false information- March 31, 2022-he was not the cabinet secretary for Agriculture.

Wamboka had also accused the CS of storming into manufacturing plants and purporting to revoke licenses and intimidating Mr. Devesh Patel who is the Chief Operating officer of KEL chemicals by coercing him to stage a press conference where he would take the fall for the fake fertiliser in the country.