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June 21, 2018

Sh1.9bn maize suspects grilled

The National Cereals and Produce Board stores in Eldoret, where EACC officials have camped /MATHEWS NDANYI
The National Cereals and Produce Board stores in Eldoret, where EACC officials have camped /MATHEWS NDANYI

Anti-corruption detectives have started grilling traders and senior National Cereals and Produce Board staff listed as the top beneficiaries in the Sh1.9 billion maize purchase scam.

Four of the traders were summoned and recorded statements at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Eldoret before being released. Senior NCPB officials will be grilled from today.

Victoria Jebet, one of the main traders questioned by the EACC, insisted she is a genuine trader and had not committed any crime at the NCPB.

More than 26 people, including former NCPB boss Newton Terer, will be questioned over the scam.

Others to be quizzed in the next two weeks include board managers and senior grain depot staff.

Jackson Mue, the EACC deputy director in charge of the North Rift, told journalists the probe is going on well.

“We are progressing well with the investigations,” he said at the EACC offices in Eldoret.

The EACC has camped at NCPB depots and taken away files.

Terer resigned three weeks ago and declined to give details of his exit. “I was not suspended but I just decided to resign,” he said.

At least Sh1.9 billion was paid to about 10 traders, while more than 3,500 farmers have yet to be paid Sh5 billion since December. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has said they will be paid by the end of this week.

Detectives have camped at depots in Kisumu, Bungoma, Kitale, Eldoret, Moi’s Bridge and Nakuru to investigate.

They have seized files on maize payments and distribution of subsidised fertiliser.

Mue said files will be scrutinised to establish the depth of fraud in purchase of maize and distribution of fertiliser.

“The investigations are still at an early stage, but we are progressing very well,” he said at the EACC regional offices in Eldoret. Forensic  experts are analysing the documents, Mue said.

“We want to know if genuine farmers were deliberately denied the opportunity to deliver maize and if there was bribery in the process, among other issues,” he said.

The EACC also seeks to establish if some suppliers were paid more money for their maize than others.

Last month, Kiunjuri said he would not resign over the multi-billion-shilling maize scandal.

Kiunjuri said he has been investigating NCPB after realising something was wrong.

The CS said he presented an audit report to the EACC, DPP and the National Assembly for appropriate action to be taken.

“I have done my part and I will not allow anybody to intimidate me,” Kiunjuri said last month.

“Those people making noise have been elected to represent the interests of Kenyans who suffer when fertiliser is stolen or when they cannot sell their maize.”

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