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Uhuru’s ‘main men’ on the spot over maize scandal

Maize bag ready for sale./MATHEWS NDANYI
Maize bag ready for sale./MATHEWS NDANYI

President Uhuru Kenyatta could be in a dilemma after senators placed his most-trusted and loyal man at the centre of a maize scandal.

The senators want Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua investigated over the importation of excess maize in 2017.

Kinyua is seen as one of the strong pillars in Uhuru’s government.

Last week, the House adopted an amendment to a report by an ad hoc committee that investigated the matter to include the name of Kinyua and the then Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Kinyua’s inclusion in the report and involvement in the scandal deals the President a major blow.

The committee co-chaired by Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar and her Bungoma counterpart Moses Wetang’ula had initially indicted former Agriculture CS Willy Bett and Treasury’s Henry Rotich.

The report says the two should be held liable for the Gazette notice they published in April 2017, that led to the importation of duty free maize that flooded the local market.

Authorised importation

But last Thursday, Kamar moved an amendment to the initial report to include all the members of the inter-ministerial committee on food security that authorised the importation of maize.

Kinyua chaired the inter-ministerial task force. The team was formed to address the maize shortage at the time.

“We amended the report to cast the culpability net wider to include all members of the committee that were responsible for the importation,” Kamar said.

“The reason why we are bringing the amendments is that we have revived minutes of what transpired both for the gazette notices and most of the sweeping recommendations that the committee made.”

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Kamar said the committee argued that by only holding Bett and Rotich responsible, Kinyua, who chaired the task force, would have been left out.

Kiunjuri, who was deeply involved in the importation of maize, would also have been left out.

She said the decision was made after the committee obtained minutes of a meeting the task force held in December. It was signed by all the members, authorising the importation of maize from Mexico.

About four million 90kg bags of maize were imported from Mexico as hunger had gripped nearly every part of the country. This, the committee said, flooded the local market, hurting local farmers.

cast net wider

In the report, the committee said the crisis that led to flooding of duty free maize was a ploy by public and private sector players to profiteer from distortion of the maize value chain.

Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen said the net should be cast wider to save the image of the House.

The government is fighting corruption, which has hurt nearly every government institution.

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The DCI and the EACC are investigating a number of Cabinet secretaries over corruption-related cases.

Rotich is among the three CS under probe over a Sh65 billion dams construction project. His Tourism counterpart Najib Balala has been questioned by the EACC detectives over Sh100 million contract with a travel agency for the hosting of an expo.

Rotich is among officials who have been questioned in connection with the two dam projects in Elgeyo Marakwet.

They are Sh38.5 billion Arror dam and the Sh28 billion Kimwarer dam.

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