Stop sugar millers' auctioning spree, say senators

Agriculture committee says three state-owned sugar millers may have nothing left to sell if managers keep auctioning

In Summary

• Call on government to swiftly set up caretaker committee to safeguard assets.

• Claim managers don't care and are auctioning assets to settle debts, make a killing.

Cane offloaded at Nzoia Sugar Company.
Cane offloaded at Nzoia Sugar Company.
Image: FILE

Senators yesterday said the management of state-owned sugar mills is on an orchestrated 'auction spree of assets' to settle debts before privatisation.

Senators on the Agriculture committee said they fear the loss of crucial assets from the three state-owned owned millers. They demanded a caretaker committee to preserve property ahead of company sales.

State-owned Chemelil, Trans Nzoia and South Nyanza Sugar Mills are identified for privatisation.

Of the three, only Sony has remained crushing after the remaining two ground to a halt over what is believed to be the influx of imported sugar.

The state Privatisation Commission is in the process of identifying strategic partners to take over the mills.

The Agriculture committee chaired by Senator Njeru Ndwiga said the national government should swiftly appoint a transitional team to safeguard assets.

Migori Senator Ochilo Ayacko said Sony has auctioned tractors in the past week. He said they were attached by auctioneers "in unclear circumstances".

“Government must urgently find a transitional arrangement to ensure the welfare and sustainability of the public mills. Some current managers are no longer interested in running these facilities,” Ayacko said.

Sony has called the auction allegation untrue but confirmed that a law firm impounded some items, an issue the company is trying to settle.

The committee was meeting Livestock PS Harry Kimtai and Agriculture CAS Andrew Tuimor who were answering members' questions.

“Assets of the public sugar mills must be preserved, otherwise, we will have nothing to privatise when the time comes,” Ayacko said.

Last month, Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Opposition chief Raila Odinga met leaders from the the sugar belt. Then they okayed privatisation to address debt and other problems of the sugar industry and ensure sustainability of the  mills, the economic backbone of the region.