A global index has singled out Kenya as one of the countries whose food security is undermined by various forms of corruption, underlining the impact graft has had on taxpayers' lives even as the government vows to root out the vice.
According to a report by think tank Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), land grabbing is another common mechanism of corruption threatening food security, citing instances where public or private entities use backdoor deals to push favourable deals to secure land for themselves while displacing smallholder farmers.
“Corruption at the highest levels of politics can affect entire sectors— the Kenyan government, for example, has been plagued by corruption scandals related to national grain reserves and market prices,” the EIU says in its newly released 2018 Global Food Security Index.
Kenya was ranked 87 out of 113 countries, with the report noting that a prolonged electioneering period during last year’s polls stalled economic investments in several sectors including agriculture.
“Even short-term uncertainty can take a toll, as when post-election unrest in Kenya in 2017 hurt the tourism and retail sectors and delayed infrastructure projects,” the think tank notes.
Singapore scooped the top spot in the index that measures the affordability, safety and availability of food in 113 countries across the globe.
The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), which is mandated with procuring, storage and distribution of Kenya's strategic grain reserve, was this year rocked by a multibillion-shilling corruption scandal after it emerged that agency officials colluded with traders to pay them for maize supplied at the expense of farmers.
An investigation revealed that several traders disguised as farmers were irregularly paid Ksh1.9 billion ($19 million) by the NCPB.
Separately, it also emerged that senior State officials awarded a South African company a multimillion-shilling deal to supply Kenya with maize in a process fraught with irregularities.
The tender was part of a food subsidy deal revealed by South African investigative magazine Newsweek, which claims that the firm - Afgri Trading Pty Ltd - colluded with government officials to supply 75,000 tonnes of maize at a higher cost to taxpayers, an extra Ksh877 million ($8.77 million).
On arrival, the ministry of health found that some of the grain was contaminated on arrival at the port of Mombasa.
According to the latest official data, agriculture - which encompasses growing of crops, animal production, fishing and forestry - is the greatest contributor to Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) by activity at 34.6 per cent.
It is followed by manufacturing, retail and the financial services sectors.