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Parastatals to go in sweeping agriculture reforms

Monday, November 12, 2012 - 00:00 -- BY STAR REPORTER
Pic 3
Some members of Gudliye farming group at a maize plantation at the farm in Dadaab. The farm won this year's UN person of the year.

The sun will soon set on dozens of state corporations, if Parliament finally accepts far-reaching reforms that seek to turn-around the agricultural sector.

While some will be scrapped, others will operate as directorates or merge to form influential and efficient authorities. Profit-making ones will be turned into companies.

It is still not clear how many state corporations will be affected. But initial reforms target about 30. Apart from parastatals, the reforms may also see the merging of ten sector ministries into a single ministry of agriculture, land and animal resources. The reform proposals are contained in five Bills now before Parliament.

The Agriculture, Livestock and Food Authority (ALFA) Bill 2012, The Fisheries and Livestock Bill 2012, the Crops Bill 2012, and The Agricultural Research Bill 2012 were drafted by a multi-ministerial agency, Agricultural Sector Coordination Unit (ASCU), under the guidance of the Parliamentary Departmental Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperatives led by Naivasha MP John Mututho.

The bills replace about 131 laws that have been governing the agricultural sector. Among parastatals facing the axe is the 63-year old Cereals and Sugar Finance Corporation.

It is in debts, and its operation has often been questioned by Parliament. In fact, its liquidation has been inexplicably pending for over ten years.

Others are Sisal Board, Cotton Board, National cereals and Produce board, Coffee Board, Tea Board, Kenya Sugar Board, Pyrethrum Board, and Coconut Development Authority, Plant Health Inspectorate (KEPHIS), and Horticultural Crops Development Authority.

Their functions will be taken over by a new powerful body, the Agriculture, Livestock and Food Authority (ALFA). The Dairy Board, Kenya Meat Commission, Pig Industry Board, Pests Control Board, Kenya National Artificial Insemination Centre, will collapse into a Livestock Authority.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, which has lost most of its land to corrupt dealers will merge with other research institutions, including KETRI, KEFRI, Coffee Research Foundation, Tea Research Foundation, Kenya Sugar Research Foundation to form The Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (KARO).

According to MP Mututho, the reforms are expected to lead to the consolidation of agricultural sector’s ten ministries into one or two.

The ministries are: Agriculture, Livestock Development, Fishing, Cooperative Development and Marketing, Lands, Water & Irrigation, Forest and Wildlife, Environment, Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands and Regional Development Authorities.

According to the new Constitution, the Cabinet can only have a maximum 22 members. Thus, the proposed reform is not just to make the agricultural sector commercial viable and competitive, it also seeks to consolidate functions of disparate departments.

MP Mututho says the reform started five years ago. It seeks to make farming attractive to the youth, professional, and a well-paying business that is competitive on the world market.

The initial reforms sought to turn around the negative growth to the path of growth. Now it is rejuvenated and growing, according to Agriculture PS Romano Kiome.

“The current laws that govern agriculture are archaic, founded to protect colonial interests. They are not reflective of African living style,” Mututho told this writer earlier in the week. “In fact, some of the laws were meant to control African farming.”

The Bills were expected to sail through Parliament by the middle of this month. But they have been taken back for further amendments and consultation following opposition by the Livestock ministry, which feels shortchanged.

In paid-up advertisements in the media, the Livestock sub-sector has claimed that it wasn’t consulted although Mr Mututho and the drafters say top leadership of the sub-sector were involved in all stages of the process.

Christopher Wanga, vice president, African Veterinary Association, has taken front row in opposing the five Bills. “Reading through the proposed Bill it becomes evident that it lacks the necessary technical input which calls for postponement of its enactment until this is done,” wrote in The Star newspaper last month. “It is a constitutional requirement for public participation in any law formulation.”

Livestock Development Minister Mohamed Kuti and Kenneth Lusaka, his Permanent secretary who has since retired, attended a series of consultative meetings in Mombasa.

“I think people are merely trying to protect their turf. I know for a fact that the process was consultative enough. I don’t understand the turn-about."

One of the drafters, who sought not to be names because he wasn’t the official spokesperson for the team, told this writer.

“The minister and PS appeared happy until one of the ministry’s top officials who retired many years ago but is on contract, turned up and started throwing spanners in the works. I am told he is politically well connected.”

The dispute forced the Parliamentary Committee to convene a meeting of key stakeholders from the Livestock sub-sector a fortnight ago, which eventually asked the concerned Ministry to draft three new Bills, to cover veterinary services, livestock production and a regulatory one.

The subsequent drafts will be presented at a retreat of the Parliamentary committee in Mombasa l this month. Mututho says he is hopeful that the sector will, after all unite the laws.

“I am sure that later, perhaps next year, we will consolidate the laws into five bills. We wanted to defuse tension and hasten the process ahead of the elections.”

The agricultural sector comprises over 60 parastatals. Already, reforms implemented in the last ten years have seen about 20 parastatals scrapped.

“Some of the parastatals reproduce the work of others,” says Dr Sally Kosgei, Minister for Agriculture. Take the example of the Cereals and Sugar Finance Corporation; established by Parliament to raise money to lend to Government agencies for the purchase and production of grains and cereals.

It is still in business despite the fact that the Government declared it insolvent about ten years ago. “The corporation is dormant and technically insolvent,” said the Auditor General’s report 2008/9. As early as 1976, Parliament had singled it out among the corrupt parastatals.

According to the draft Bills, profit-making parastatals will run as companies. “Every (parastatal) that carried out any commercial activity with the objective of making profit shall within twelve months of the (enactment of this law) transform into a company and be registered as a company under the Companies Act so as to enable (it) carry on commercial activity.”

The reforms envisage a powerful body, Agriculture, Livestock and food Authority (ALFA) to take over most of the functions hitherto performed by the authorities that will be swept away by the reforms.

The bills discount any fears about job losses. “Any person who, at the commencement of this Act, is a member of staff of a former institution shall, on the appointed day, become a member of staff of (ALFA) on the same or improved terms and conditions of service as may be specified by the Cabinet Secretary”, the draft ALFA Bill states.

 

SIDEBAR

Affected institutions

Coconut Development Authority

Kenya Sugar Board

Tea Board of Kenya

Horticultural Crops Development Authority

Cotton Development Authority

Sisal Board of Kenya

Cereals and Sugar Finance Corporation

Pig Industry Board

Kenya Dairy Board

Registrar of Brands

Kenya Stud Brook

Livestock Recording Centre

Central Artificial Insemination Station

Kenya National Artificial Insemination centre

Canning Crops Board

Pests Control Products Board

Plant Protection Services

Plant Health Inspectorate

Fisheries Board of Kenya

Coffee Board of Kenya

Pyrethrum Board of Kenya

Cotton Board of Kenya

National Cereals and Produce Board

Kenya Agricultural research Institute

Kenya marine and Fisheries research Institute

Kenya Trypanosomiasis Research Institute

Agricultural science Advisory Research Committee

Coffee Research Foundation

Tea Research Foundation of Kenya

Kenya Sugar Research Foundation