NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 27 – The Ministry of Special Programmes on Tuesday denied claims that the government had lost millions of shillings in the now infamous maize scandal.,
Assistant Minister Mohammed Ali told journalists that no maize had been taken out of the National Cereals and Produce Board without full payment.
Mr Ali said the release of maize from the strategic reserves began in 2008 to bridge the demand gap that went up due to the post election crisis.
“The government prediction (of a crisis) started being felt in May 2008 when the government put in place plans to import 1.7 million bags to bridge the gap up to the next main harvest. The imported maize started arriving in August, before the old stock was exhausted,” he explained.
He added that there are 481,000 bags which have been approved for release, but will be distributed when millers submit their milling returns for the previous allocations.
“The government allocated the first tranche of 480,000 bags of maize. The second allocation of a similar quantity was released on 29 December; 734,804 bags have been collected,” Mr Ali said.
His Permanent Secretary Ali Dawood said that he had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday for interrogation on the scam.
“The entire country has been told by you reporters that we have lost 100,000 bags of maize to Southern Sudan and we are challenging you to prove it. This is not peanuts,” he stressed.
The PS claimed that investigations were now being conducted due to the perception created by the media, but not because there were any irregularities.
“It must be looked into to satisfy the Kenyan public,” he added.
United Millers and Farmers Association, an alliance of small scale millers, Vice Chairman, Patrick Kinyua claimed all millers had been buying maize from the NCPB since the eruption of the post election crisis.
“The quality of maize that the cereals board had could not go across the border because of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS,” Mr Kinyua insisted.
Both KEBS and SGS provide inspection, testing, certification and verification services to ensure that products, services and systems meet quality, safety and performance standards.
Millers were also given a 10-day ultimatum to account for the last two allocations of maize or risk cancellation of their third share.
Assistant Minister Ali said that those who don’t submit comprehensive milling returns including the invoices and quantities of flour distributed to their retail outlets would have their third provision reallocated to others.
In the last two allocations, large scale millers were given 400,000 bags of maize while the small scale millers were allocated 100,000 bags.
The Assistant Minister said 151,440 bags were remaining and were yet to be paid for and collected from the NCPB depots.
“It is evident that the millers have been supplied with adequate subsidised maize for milling and selling to the public at the agreed price of at most Sh72 per two kilograms packet.”
“There is therefore no justification whatsoever for increasing the price of flour.”
He said there were 23 large millers and 75 small scale millers registered and the release of the maize from the national reserves started at the beginning of 2008 when the demand for the cereal went up due to the post election crisis.
Meanwhile, the PS Dawood said that none of the Internally Displaced Persons who were living with relatives would be given the Sh25,000 for resettlement because none had proved that their houses were destroyed.
He stated that they were only entitled to Sh10,000 to enable them restart their lives.
“There is a group that has been camping outside the District Commissioners office in Nakuru calling themselves IDPs and we have made efforts to verify the genuineness of this group, but they have always rejected the efforts by the government,” he claimed.
“They need to move out of that place, go back to their districts of origin to be certified as genuine displaced persons so that they can benefit from the government programme.”