, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – A joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Trade probing the entry of contraband sugar into the Kenyan market kicked off Monday with two Cabinet Secretaries giving conflicting reports.
Cabinet Secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture) and Henry Rotich (National Treasury) differed on when the sugar was imported into the country and the quantity.
Kiunjuri told the Kanini Kega-led committee that only 193 importers were allowed to import sugar under an open gazette notice issued in May last year.
“It was difficult for the ministry to project how much sugar was needed and therefore a total of 193 importers were given licenses to import sugar. However, the gazette notice was open for anyone to import,” he said.
As a result, the CS attributed the influx of sugar in the market to what he described as a legal loophole in the gazette notice issued last year to allow the importation of sugar to fill a deficit which he claimed was abused, leaving the country with excess sugar.
“Unlicensed importers took advantage of the open gazette notice and brought in contaminated sugar,” he said.
Kiunjuri however assured members that the government had put up sufficient measures to identify and nab individuals who brought in contaminated sugar into the market.
“Once the government identifies the rogue individuals, criminal charges will be opened against them,” he said.
On his part, CS Rotich stated that 71 importers were licensed to import unlimited quantity of sugar from May 12, 2017 until August 31, 2017.
“The importers were given an open notice to bring in sugar in the country and there was no quantity limit in importation,” said Rotich.
However, both CSs were in agreement that the notice did not stop any other person from importing sugar, raising questions of whether illegal importers took advantage of the notice and imported contaminated sugar.
Dagoretti North Member of Parliament and a member of the committee Simba Arati accused the two CSs of negligence and lack of consultations between them, which led to the entry of contaminated sugar into the country.
“The issuance of open notice for people to import sugar was not a wise decision because the smugglers might have taken advantage and import cocaine in the name of sugar,” said Arati.
Interior CS Fred Matiangi who was also lined up for the probe failed to show up forcing Kega to issue a fresh invite insisting that the CS should honour it so that he can give a definitive position on the sugar saga, after he earlier claimed that it contained mercury.