• Iringo and Kimote said that the NCBP did not inherit any funds from the SRF, whose functions it took over following the disbandment of the agency.
• NCPB on Thursday said the reserves were empty, in what could jeopardise the government’s efforts to provide relief food to needy Kenyans.
The National Cereals and Produce Board needs Sh10.34 billion to restock depleted national food reserves amid worsening drought and hunger in the country.
NCPB on Thursday said the reserves were empty, in what could jeopardise the government’s efforts to provide relief food to needy Kenyans.
The revelations emerged even as NCPB management was put on the spot to account for the billions of shillings it has received from the Treasury and Agriculture ministry.
Appearing before the National Assembly’s Agriculture committee, board chairman Mutea Iringo and MD Joseph Kimote were hard-pressed to explain the whereabouts of Sh12 billion the board inherited from the defunct Strategic Food Reserve (SFR).
“Where is this money? Why haven’t you used this money to buy maize from farmers who are crying that their produce is rotting?” chairman Silas Tiren (Moiben) posed.
Iringo and Kimote said the board has not bought any cereals in the current financial year due to lack of funds.
They said NCBP did not inherit any funds from the SRF, whose functions it took over following the disbandment of the agency.
“The board has written several times to the Ministry of Agriculture on the status of implementation of the reforms and raising concerns of the lack of commodity stocks in the national food reserves,” Kimote said.
The MD told the panel that the board needs Sh220 million to establish a National Food Reserve division to perform the functions of the former SRF.
In addition, NCPB needs Sh10.34 billion to buy three million bags of food commodities, Sh150 million for quality management, Sh360 million for improvement of digital infrastructure and Sh20 million for sanitisation and capacity building.
“While the national food plate constituting the National Food Reserve has been expanded to include food commodities other than maize, the financial requests have been worked out on the basis of the value of maize consumption equivalent,” the MD said.
But MPs took issue with the board’s request for more funds to establish NFR and the ‘opaque’ statement that does not break down the food commodity the agency intended to buy.
“Why did we disband SFR, an agency that was very effective and now demand Sh220 million to create a division that will serve the same purpose?” Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa asked.
Iringo and Kimote were also put to task to justify the expenditure of Sh7 billion NCPB received from the Agriculture ministry to carter for the expenses incurred in the food subsidy programme.
The management had revealed that the board received the cash and spent it on payments of debt to millers, agencies, transporters and other players in the programme between 2017 and 2019.
Committee members questioned why the board chose to pay other players in the chain when ordinary farmers who delivered their produce to NCPB depots and silos had not been paid.
They explained that the money was strictly meant for debts incurred during the implementation of the subsidy programme.
Iringo sought to dispel fears some farmers have not been paid. He said besides the Sh7 billion, the agency also got Sh565 million which was used to pay formers who had been cleared by the EACC.
“It’s not true that farmers have not been paid. All those who delivered their produce and have been cleared by EACC have all been paid,” he said.
Edited by A.N