Blow by blow reply to maize graft claims in Miguna book
Posted Wednesday, July 18 2012 at 22:30
- In this final part of a three-part series that started on Tuesday, journalist SARAH ELDERKIN, who serves as a media consultant for the Orange Democratic Movement and is close to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, responds to Miguna Miguna’s controversial book Peeling Back The Mask.
Among other fallacious claims and far-fetched stories in his book Peeling Back the Mask, Miguna Miguna seeks to show that Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his office staff were involved in a maize scam, whose details became public in January 2009.
This followed the 2008 lifting of the ban on the importation of maize, in order to plug the local shortfall. Read (Peel back the mask Miguna wears, and get a man with delusions of grandeur)
There were, in fact, two concurrent areas of contention. In brief, one was that various people, including parliamentarians in the pay of certain others, had allegedly been given blank allocation letters signed by officials in the ministries of agriculture, finance and special programmes, allowing them to collect large quantities of maize from the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). Under regulations, only millers are allowed to do so.
The favoured politicians and others never collected the maize – they were, after all, not millers – but they allegedly sold the letters of allocation to millers, who filled in their own names and then collected the maize.
This they retailed at an inflated price, covering the cost of what they had been forced to pay in acquiring the allocation letters, on average Sh500 per bag. Since tens of thousands of bags were involved, various persons were awash with money.
Because of these allegations, the Prime Minister suspended the minister for agriculture at the time, William Ruto. Ruto was promptly reinstated by President Mwai Kibaki. There was no probe.
The second area of contention was that the PM’s chief of staff, Caroli Omondi, had allegedly personally issued instructions to the SGR to order maize into the country, and had also told the managing director of the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to release contaminated maize on to the market and enhance its price.
On the Prime Minister’s instructions, Omondi, together with the PM’s PS, Dr Mohammed Isahakia, who was also accused in related matters, stepped aside on February 13, 2009, for three months, while investigations took place.
In other words, the Prime Minister took appropriate action on both fronts. He suspended Ruto and he suspended Omondi and Isahakia.
What else was he supposed to do? Kibaki removed the matter from any investigatory hands on one front.
On the other, Omondi and Isahakia remained suspended until the evidence for the accusations against them had been examined.
The NCPB had a 2008-2009 programme for the importation of more than 161,000 metric tonnes of white maize, some 1.5 million bags of it from Tanzania.
Ruto was in discussion with Tanzania at the time of a meeting on July 30, 2008, attended by the PM, minister of state for special programmes Dr Naomi Shabaan, then minister for finance John Michuki, several PSs, representatives of the NCPB, Omondi, Isahakia and a number of others.
The meeting noted that “the unit price [of the bags of maize] will be known when the minister for agriculture reports back”.
A committee was established, consisting of the PSs in the ministries of finance and agriculture, the NCPB MD and Omondi, to negotiate the “favourable import of maize” from a number of potential suppliers in different countries.
The next meeting, with the same attendees as that of July 30, was held on August 19, 2008.
The meeting accepted the proposals presented by the negotiating committee for maize imports from various suppliers, including Afgri Trading (Pty) Ltd in SA. It was not Caroli Omondi personally, as wildly alleged by Miguna, who ordered the maize.
The SA maize arrived at the port of Mombasa and was inspected by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), whose November 28, 2008, certificate of inspection declared the maize “passed for discharge”.