Maize: Ruto grilled as censure looms

February 16, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Agriculture Minister William Ruto was on Monday afternoon grilled by the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Lands and Natural Resources over the maize scandal.

The Minister had been summoned by the committee which is chaired by Naivasha MP John Mututho to explain the alleged disappearance of maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

Mr Ruto has been on the spot over allegations of impropriety in the maize trade at NCPB, which is in charge of maintaining strategic grain reserves for the country.

The NCPB is alleged to have irregularly allocated maize to individuals, who then sold the commodity to millers at an inflated price occasioning a shortage in the market.

The shortage has seen at least 10 millions Kenyans facing starvation leading the government to issue a food aid appeal to the international community.

Meanwhile, the same Minister could also be censured by Parliament as early as Wednesday.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Bonny Khalwale, who is to move the censure Motion, said on Monday that he was still waiting for the House Business Committee (HBC) to meet on Tuesday evening to allocate time for his Motion.

"If the HBC okays the Motion, the earliest it would come is Wednesday afternoon. I see it receiving overwhelming support even from government Ministers. I don’t think I will (move the Motion) for more than five minutes because it’s straight forward,” Dr Khalwale said in an interview with Capital News.

A fortnight ago, Dr Khalwale tabled documents in Parliament which implicated Mr Ruto in the irregular sale of maize at the NCPB.

He said the documents proved that the Cereals Board had released maize to people he termed ‘undeserving’ on the strength of phone calls from the Minister.

Since then, there has been mounting pressure on Mr Ruto to resign. Finance Assistant Minister Oburu Odinga was among the first to tell Mr Ruto to take full responsibility for the problems in his ministry.

Justice Minister Martha Karua on Saturday called on President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to crack down on those behind the maize scandal which had exposed 10 million Kenyans to hunger.

Others who have called for Mr Ruto’s resignation include Lands Minister James Orengo and Tourism Minister Najib Balala.

Mr Ruto has however maintained that he will not resign and said those implicating him in corruption were his political rivals.

A section of Members of Parliament interviewed by Capital News were undecided on whether to support the censure Motion against Mr Ruto. They however said they would support it should Dr Khalwale provide concrete evidence against the Minister.

“We are still waiting to meet as a party to decide what stand we will take on the matter,” Gwasi MP John Mbadi who is a member of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) said in an interview.

Meanwhile, Dr Khalwale who also successfully pushed a censure Motion against former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, (now Trade Minister), has appealed to backbenchers to reprimand Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi over the Sh7.6 billion oil scandal.

“The Triton oil saga is an equally sensitive thing and another member should take up the matter, but if nobody takes it up I will do the needful.”


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