NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22 – Parliament on Thursday finally gave the government the go ahead to seek a Sh7.9 billion loan from the US government to support efforts to contain the food crisis in the country.
MPs approved the move that was seeking to have the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) source maize and rice consignments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The legislators however urged the government to undertake a thorough overhaul of the top managers at the NCPB.
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara who had moved an amendment to have the Finance Planning and Trade Parliamentary Committee control the loan as opposed to NCPB said they must be given an assurance that the loan would benefit those affected.
“No one would object to Kenyans getting food, my strong reservation is to guarantee that the loan will be used to the benefit of those in need. The board lacks proper accounting procedures and has high standards of corruption,” he said.
Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale asked Agriculture Minister William Ruto to deal with all the senior managers who had led to the mismanagement of the Board to ensure the loan is safe.
Mr Ruto, on his part, assured the House of a complete overhaul of management and structures of the NCPB.
“I want to give assurance to this House that I will ensure structural and managerial changes. There has been a problem of mismanagement and underperformance,” he conceded.
Acting Finance Minister John Michuki pleaded with MPs to pass his Motion saying there was a serious famine that was already affecting many Kenyans.
He said the loan will be paid within one year instead of the three years allowed.
He further reminded the MPs that Kenya was not the only country in need of the loan saying the failure to approve it would deny the country a chance.
He said maize was likely to be available in April and May.
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende earlier ruled that Mr Michuki was within limits to ask for the funds.
Parliament had on Wednesday declined to hear Mr Michuki’s request, which it said was inconsistent with section three of the Guarantee Loans Act, which puts a ceiling on the amount that the Government can guarantee at any given time.
The limit is up to Sh80 billion.
Still in Parliament, Mr Ruto was put on the spot as MPs debated the maize scandal.
The minister tabled a list of over 3,000 millers who had taken maize stocks from the NCPB to counter the maize shortage witnessed late last month.
MPs questioned why the government was spending more in maize imports than they were paying local farmers.
They had earlier accused Mr Ruto of working to cover up influential personalities including fellow colleagues implicated in the scandal.
Mr Marende deferred the debate to next Wednesday to allow members to go through the list tabled by Mr Ruto.