The pitfalls of Kenya maize probe

February 10, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – An international audit firm that investigated Kenya’s subsidised maize scheme fiasco has expressed worry that those involved in the scandal have had enough time to cover their tracks.

The 336-page report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – which is in our possession – recommends further investigations, particularly the scrutiny of bank accounts of those implicated but worryingly notes that this is happening rather later coming a year since the scandal broke out.

“Given the prominence in the press of these allegations, any wrongdoers have had ample time to cover up or destroy evidence of their activities.  Indeed, we have noted indications that documents have been concealed from us,” the PwC report says.

The audit firm adds that apart from failure to access certain documents, the state of records at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) – the government agency at the center of the scandal – was very poor.

“We must point out that we have not had full cooperation or assistance from all public officials.  Some documentation was either not made available to us or else was only made available to us after considerable delays.”

The report points at an abuse of the procurement procedures at the NCPB, which led to the loss of about Sh2 billion.

“We believe we have been able to uncover the broad modus operandi underlying abuse and wrongdoing associated with the scheme at NCPB, plus identify acts of wrongdoing by key individuals who we believe may be culpable.”

Among those implicated are senior personnel at the Prime Minister’s Office, Permanent Secretaries and top managers at the National Cereals and Produce Board.

Due to the constraints encountered in accessing information, PwC has recommended further investigations.

“We recommend that further investigations be conducted by the KACC and/or the CID (Criminal Investigations Department) with a view to taking this investigation to a higher level whereby there would be greater certainty of identifying all of the individuals who may have committed abuse of office and other crimes related to the subsidised maize scheme.”

The subsidised maize scheme was initiated by the government to deal with food shortage initially forecast in the early months of 2008. The overall scheme was in place for around 10 months from the end of May 2008 to March last year when it was formally terminated.

The scheme involved a subsidy whereby maize comprising the Strategic Grain Reserve was meant to be sold by the government through NCPB to millers at a specific fixed price which the government felt would enable consumer prices remain at affordable levels.

Among the irregularities cited include over dominance by certain millers in the purchase of maize from the NCPB, sales to firms that were not in the milling business, or to companies that are not even registered.

“In the course of this investigation, we faced challenges in getting cooperation from millers, traders and other parties which participated in Phase 1 of the subsidised scheme under review.  A number of parties refused to meet with us,” the report says.

Other misdeeds emerging in the report are abuse of office, favouritism, failure to keep proper accounting records, false accounting and conflict of interest.


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