I will not quit, vows Ruto

February 6, 2009

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Agriculture Minister William Ruto has maintained that he will not resign over his alleged involvement in the maize scandal.

The Minister told a press conference on Friday that he would stay put because the alleged scandal where several thousands bags of maize were released to brokers is non-existent.

“I will not dignify persons peddling falsehoods with my resignation. If there is concrete evidence that I abused the office of the Minister for Agriculture or that I did anything that is contrary to my duties, then I will comfortably step aside. But I will not do so on the basis of rumours, half truths and malicious papers,” he insisted.

Mr Ruto claimed that not a single bag of maize had been lost as was being alleged by his adversaries and that all the maize sold to distributors and traders was purchased by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at Sh1,300 and sold at Sh1,750.

“None of the imported and subsidized maize was sold to any trader or distributor. The subsidized maize was sold only to millers in their undertaking to pass the subsidy to the consumer,” said the Minister, who was at pains to explain how then the price of maize flour shot up from Sh76 to Sh120 in less than a week.

Mr Ruto accused his political enemies of maligning his name, adding that they were doing so because they were jealous of his performance at the ministry.

“I have made many enemies in especially the sugar sector when I blocked their importation of sugar disguised as fertiliser or as cement. So there are people out there who have ganged up to sponsor hatchet men to try and dislodge me from this place,” he asserted.

He went on to highlight his achievements at the ministry, saying that under his helm the government had raised budgetary allocations for the agriculture sector from four to 10 percent, significantly brought down the cost of farm inputs and also managed to persuade the government to enhance the strategic grain reserves from four million to eight million bags.

“I am proud of my record at the Ministry of Agriculture and because of that (record) I have naturally attracted enemies,” he added.

Mr Ruto particularly singled out the Chairman of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee Dr Bonny Khalwale whom, he accused of tabling false documents in the House showing that he had authorised the release of maize from the NCPB.

“I would like to set the record straight, that I did not sign or write a single note nor facilitated anybody to be allocated any quantity of maize from the NCPB,” he explained.

The Minister also denied that an insurance company, Amaco in which he is a shareholder, supplied gunny bags to the Board. Although he declined to give details of what stake he owns at the firm, Mr Ruto maintained that there was no commercial relationship between Amaco and NCPB.

At the same time, Mr Ruto insisted that the managers at the Produce Board, whom he sacked two weeks ago, have already been discharged from the board. He said letters of termination had already been dispatched to the six managers.

There were reports that the managers are still in office despite their sacking, in what Mr Ruto called the ‘restructuring exercise’.

Meanwhile, the Minister announced that they had finalised the importation of two million bags of maize, which are expected to bridge the current shortfall in the country.

He said the maize would be in the country in the next two weeks. This is part of the five million bags that are scheduled to be imported to feed 10 million people in the country who are facing starvation due to the current famine.

He also assured that the price of maize flour would not go up as the NCPB was selling subsidised maize to millers, which should ensure affordable flour in the market.

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