Even as the country stands on a brink of starvation more twists are emerging in the maze importation deal that has shifted from an intervention measure to what appears to be a mega scandal. Fears now abound that the tax payer could loose billions, unless the well executed cartel is nipped in the bud. The shady deals have now boiled to the surface with ministers trading accusations as to who could be behind the maize importation scams. Prime Minister Raila Odinga is the latest victim of the emerging saga. The legislators said the PM has stood in the way of engaging another grain handling company slowing down the clearance of the imported cereals. They also accuse the PM of favouring a member of his family in the maize importation process that is becoming more of a financial scandal than crisis solving mechanism.
The latest hint that taxpayers in Kenya are losing billions to corrupt elements in the government was dropped by Justice Minister Martha Karua who blamed some cabinet colleagues for the looming food crisis stopping short of calling it artificial. A section of parliamentarians claimed that an estimated Sh2 billion could have already been lost in the corrupt deals involving maize importation. Though Agriculture minister William Ruto has banned all exports of maize by invoking section 30 of the NCPB Act, the rogue middlemen are still getting away with the same.
Once in Southern Sudan, the commodity goes for more than three times the cost compared to Kenya. While NCPB sells the maize to millers and middlemen at a price of Sh1750 per 90 kilogramme bag, the middlemen repackage the commodity and export it to Southern Sudan where it goes for about Sh6000 for the same quantity. The situation is getting so desperate that the even the low cost maize flour unveiled by the Government a month ago has served little purpose as more and more Kenyans join the list of those in need of urgent food rations to avert a food crisis.The situation is compounded by the fact that thousands of maize bags valued at over Sh150 million have been allocated to questionable millers in what is fast developing into a huge scandal in the wake of a seemingly divided government. Middlemen and brokers that the Prime Minister and Agriculture minister William Ruto promised to eliminate in the maize importation deal are reported to be on the loose and more vicious than before.
They are taking advantage of a desperate situation to cut deals with willing government officials denying the bona fide beneficiaries of the imported maize and making quick kills while the government officials are in for huge kickbacks even as thousands face starvation. Initial reports indicated that out of the 144,000 bags of maize given to large milling companies by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), only 40,000 could be accounted for in terms of milled flour
Over 100,000 bags remained unaccounted for even as the government remains mum on the issue. Some briefcase milling companies with no known physical addresses are said to have inflated their milling capacity leading to a situation where hey were allocated more than they can manage. Surprisingly, no serious follow-up measures are being undertaken by the government to reign in these crooks casting aspersions and doubts to where the government stands on the matter.
A report on the investigations into the corrupt deals associated with milling companies is expected to be handed to Attorney General by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission for possible prosecution. Insiders in the industry however point to a possibility where the NCPB could have colluded with the millers to inflate their milling capacity and therefore blackmailed the government on the issue.
Story by: lumiti khabuchi