NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – The Cooperative Development and Marketing Minister Joseph Nyagah on Wednesday inaugurated the new Kenya Planters’ Co-operative Union (KPCU) interim board despite the controversy surrounding its appointment.
The directors who were elected by farmers on July 20 to serve for one year have been criticised by the old board which claims that their appointment did not represent the interests of the 7,000 coffee farmers across the country.
The former board which last week appeared before the Agricultural Parliamentary Committee complained of theft cases at various KPCU branches, accusing Minister Nyagah and the Commissioner of Co-operatives’s Fredrick Odhiambo of setting up the new board to oversee the affairs of the giant farmers’ union and cover up alleged cases of theft.
“People look for excuses to attack Nyagah all the time. When Nyagah is doing his bit, it’s just Nyagah, Nyagah, Nyagah. But I will interfere very firmly with matters that might affect the farmers,” vowed the minister.
He denied claims of trying to micro manage KPCU adding that the farmers have the mandate, but maintained that the government has to play a role in ensuring its full revival.
The former board had claimed increased theft of KPCU assets worth Sh757 million with no action being taken by the Ministry, but Nyagah denied receiving any reports concerning the issue.
“I don’t know about theft cases and what happens at every cooperative in Kenya. That would be making me look like a small god!” said a visibly irritated Nyagah. “I will support this board fully, to ensure if there is stealing, those people are dealt with, whoever they are.”
On the integrity question of the directors of the interim board, Nyagah said they could not be scrutinized as he had announced during their election, due to “pressure” from farmers to see their company come back to life.
“The mood that I have detected from farmers is that they are so anxious to get this thing. They have even been saying, we will get money ourselves and remove the receiver ourseleves, which is the extent of the commitment form farmers, “clarified Nyagah.
Nyagah said there could be a possibility of selling some assets which he said are idle and could be re invested to make money for the Union.
“Those are proposals that came from the farmers. I would always ask them, now that you have your factories, what do I do with these empty buildings, and I got a standard answer; Those are very important real estate properties by virtue of location, “he emphasized
However speaking to Capital FM Business, Fred Kirubi who is one of the former Directors said the appointment of the interim board is does not follow the company’s act adding that the directors should be elected at the districts level and not at a national Annual General Meeting.
“That is a kangaroo board, its some hawks; they want to cover up, stealing. Let’s see how far he (minister Nyagah) can go. But all we want is to ensure the illegal activities at KPCU are uncovered,” Kirubi said.
KPCU’s problems are traced to its dual registration – first as a co-operative under the Societies Act then as a limited liability company under the Companies Act.
“In future we will see how to work on this act, to make this institution stronger and finish these politics, “assured the minister.