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CEC put to task over Bomet-Iran tea export deal

RIFT VALLEY
By Gilbert Kimutai | July 29th 2021

Bomet CEC Dr Kipchumba Towett before county assembly committee investigating the deal between Bomet and Iran. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

Bomet Agriculture Executive Kipchumba Towett was yesterday put to task over the county's tea export deal with Iran.

Dr Kipchumba, who appeared before the County Assembly Committee on Agriculture, failed to state the source of tea that was allegedly exported to Iran.

He said he was not privy to details of the deal that was reached between Governor Hilary Barchok and Iran's ambassador to Kenya Jafar Barmaki.

“It is in the public domain that we flagged off the consignment at the county offices after KTDA changed its mind in the last minute and the office of Governor Hillary Barchok individually sourced for an alternative source of tea which I was not involved,” said Kipchumba.

The probe followed a statement sought by Kapletundo MCA Richard Chirchir demanding details of the deal to be made public.

The committee found itself at a crossroads on whether to admit or reject an unsigned MoU on the deal presented by Kipchumba.

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok and Iran Ambassador Jafar Barmaki during the flagging off of the first consignment. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

Committee chair Ambrose Koech said his team had demanded a copy of the signed deal between Bomet County government and Iran.

Koech accused Kipchumba of taking the committee for a ride, noting it was wrong to present a plain document alleging it to be the MoU.

“This is not in good faith and I am made to believe that the Executive is not taking the committee work seriously. Why present a document which has no signatures? Should we just conclude that there is no such a deal?” posed Koech.

Kipchumba requested more time to seek clarification from Barchok noting that most information on the deal was handled by the governor himself.

The statement sparked fury from the members who accused Kipchumba of abdicating his duties.

Rogena Manaret MCA Samwel Keter observed that from the answers they were getting from Kipchumba, it was evident that he was not in charge of his department.

The investigations by the County Assembly comes at a time Barchok is expected to jet out of the country in the company of a delegation to go and receive the tea consignment in Iran.

Barchok said the delegation included selected small-scale tea farmers, private tea organisations and officials from the Iran embassy.

Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok and Iran Ambassador Jafar Barmaki. [Gilbert Kimutai, Standard]

He said after the trip, all questions and doubts on the deal will be cleared.

“We will be in Iran from July 30 to receive the consignment of tea that we flagged off and we hope this will bring to an end the doubts,” said Barchok earlier.

The Ministry of Agriculture has since dismissed the deal.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya two weeks ago said his ministry was not aware of the agreement.

Munya, at the same time, said no tea from the county had reached the port of Mombasa.

“As far as I am informed, there is not tea from Bomet that has reached Mombasa en route to Iran,” said Munya.

Munya said while the idea was good, the county did not include experts or the Ministry of Agriculture. 

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