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December 15, 2018

Kebs MD Charles Ongwae, nine others arrested over substandard fertilizer

Part of the subsidized Fertilizer at the NCPB depot in Eldoret. /FILE
Part of the subsidized Fertilizer at the NCPB depot in Eldoret. /FILE

Kenya Bureau of Standards MD Charles Ongwae and nine other senior officials have been arrested and taken for questioning at the DCI over the importation of substandard fertiliser and circulation fake KEBS stamps.

The nine were picked by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

They included Quality Assurance director Erick Chesire, Inspection manager Kilindini port Peter Ndung'u, Port health officer Pole Mwangeni and Regional manager Coast region Martin Nyakiamo.

Others are Erick Kirui, Erick Ochieng, Catherine Bowen, Robin Shake and Rhoda Kirui who are part of Kebs tender committee.

DPP Noordin Haji said OCP Kenya limited from Morocco, imported compound fertiliser weighing 5,846,000 kilograms which upon testing failed to meet KEBS standard.

"When the company appealed for a second test it failed to meet the standard again. That notwithstanding, it was released into the market as opposed to destroying it or re-shipping it to the country of origin," Haji said in a statement.

He also said the officials will face prosecution over the procurement fake of ISM stickers.

He said the mark meant to monitor and control imported goods has been found to be unfit.

The stickers were procured by Kebs from M/s Madras Private Security Limited. 

“The mark supplied has been found to be prone to photocopying, scanning and misuse by unscrupulous traders, defeating the purpose of its procurement. Kebs committed the government to the payment of over Sh800 million for the supply of the mark," he said.

DCI boss George Kinoti said, “They have to explain how the country is consuming poisonous sugar. Copper and lead are dangerous.”

The 10 officials are likely to stay in the police cells until Monday when they are presented in court.

The suspects risk being charged with abuse of office, breach of trust, selling substandard goods and failing to stop “a felony and attempted murder."

Ongwae and his managers were questioned in May over the rise of contraband goods.

They were earlier on Friday summoned to the DCI headquarters. He and two other directors were questioned for almost five hours.

Police wanted to understand why there is an influx of contraband goods in the country, despite Kebs and other agencies being tasked to prevent entry of such commodities.

Ongwae said police asked them to go to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road to explain.

Police want to understand what measures Kebs has in place to stop the trend.

The DCI is targeting a number of senior Kenya Revenue Authority officials suspected of colluding with the dealers in the contraband sugar.

“This is a wider probe that will cover all players. We don’t understand why Kenyans are exposed to irregular goods,” said an official privy to the investigations.

Read: Contraband sugar seized from Eastleigh contained mercury

Haji said he has directed the process to extradite non-Kenyan suspects.

"In regard to persons who are outside the country, I have further directed the issuance of Red notices as my office embarks on the application of international warrants of arrests in order to commence the process of extradition." Haji said.

Haji on Thursday told the National Assembly’s committee on Justice and Legal Affairs that Kebs officials will be arrested in relations to the adulterated fertiliser.

He told the committee chaired by Baringo North William Chep- tumo his officers are probing the Kebs officials for failing to adhere to acceptable standards in clearing impounded sugar.

Ongwae told the committee on Trade they contain copper and lead, not mercury as was alleged by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i. “We will be moving on a particular direction towards Kebs after learning that sugar unfit for human consumption and fertiliser were smuggled into the country,”

Haji told the committee on Thursday at Parliament Buildings. Contraband sugar, liquor and other goods have recently been impounded in parts of the country.

Read: Matiang'i at war with contraband traders selling 'chemicals, poison' to Kenyans

Also read: Expert comment: Stop these uncontrolled sugar imports, people are suffering

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