MPs clear Linturi in fake fertiliser scandal

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The National Assembly Select Committee has given Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi a clean bill of health.

By a majority, the Committee dismissed allegations levelled against Linturi by Bumula MP Jack Wamboka saying they were unsubstantiated.

“The committee finds that the allegations under Ground One on gross violation of the Constitution, Ground Two on serious reasons for believing that the Cabinet Secretary has committed a crime under national law, and Ground Three on gross misconduct as outlined in the special motion are unsubstantiated,” read the report.

“The Committee recommends that there be no further proceedings on the matter,” it added.

The Naomi Waqo-led committee observed that Linturi did not violate Articles 2 and 10 of the Constitution where he acted as a state officer by authorising the procurement of fake fertilizer as alleged by Wamboka, and there was no evidence adduced to show that the CS procured the fake fertiliser.

“Section 69 of the Public Procurement Act provides that all approvals relating to procurement shall be done in writing and dated. There was no documentary evidence adduced before the select committee to show that the Cabinet Secretary had a role in the procurement of the fertiliser,” read the report.

On the allegation by Wamboka that the CS had violated article 46 of the Constitution and violated consumer rights by not ensuring the manufacture and distribution of good quality goods, the Committee ruled that the procurement and distribution of the fertiliser was done by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) – a semi-autonomous body- thus “he did not participate in any process that could potentially violate consumer rights.”

Linturi was also facing charges of violating Article 232 of the Constitution by signing an agency agreement with 51 Capital, Africa Diatomite Industries on March 31 2022 for the supply and distribution of GPC Diatomaceous for its commercial function and that the product was not sold as chemical fertiliser but a soil conditioner.

The Committee however noted that the agreement was signed and executed prior to Linturi’s appointment as the CS and further, the agreement did not classify GPC Diatomaceous as a fertiliser.

Concerning the two grounds where the CS was facing charges of committing a crime under sections 100 and 101 of the Penal Code, the committee observed that Wamboka was relying on a letter by lawyer Ahmed Abdullahi dated April 2024, who was not one of the witnesses. The Committee said the letter was considered as “hearsay evidence”.

The Committee further observed that Wamboka had been unable to substantiate his claims of gross misconduct against the CS, noting that there was no nexus between the CS and the gross misconduct.

“The allegations as framed do not state with a degree of precision the articles of the Constitution or any other written law that have been alleged to be grossly violated,” the report stated.  

It also noted that under the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, an accounting officer of a public entity shall be primarily responsible for ensuring that the entity complies with the Act and “the Cabinet Secretary, therefore, had no role in the procurement of fertiliser by NCPB.”

On the flip side, four members of the committee, Robert Mbui (Kathiani), Catherine Omanyo (Busia County Women representative), Tom Kajwang (Ruaraka), and Yusuf Farah (Wajir West) however dissented with the majority opinion on a number of issues, findings and recommendations.

In their minority report, the quartet criticised their counterparts and tabled dispositions to support their opinion that Linturi had violated provisions of the Constitution and other laws and that he had engaged in gross misconduct.

They faulted a decision by a majority of the members during the trial not to allow for the summoning of Agriculture Principal Secretary Paul Rono and KEL Chemicals Chief Executive Officer Devesh Patel to shed more light on the matter. They equated it to an obstruction of justice by their counterparts.

“The minority view is that unless the two witnesses are summoned as requested, the committee is unable to determine whether or not there is gross misconduct. Failure to summon the witness is tantamount to obstruction of justice.