The Ministry of Agriculture is on the spot over failure to account for Sh4.5 billion of taxpayers money used to import maize in 2017.
Appearing before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee on Monday, Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga failed to produce relevant documents detailing how the billions of shillings were used.
According to documents presented before the committee by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, the Sh4.5 billion was part of Sh11.67 billion the government spent to import maize in 2017, in a bid to cushion the consumer against the high prices of maize flour.
At that time, the price of 2kg packet of maize flour in supermarkets and retail outlets across the country was Sh125.
The committee was told that five companies were involved in the importation of maize that the government bought at Sh3,600 per 90kg bag.
The firms are Export Trading Company, Hydery P Limited, Kitui Mills Limited, Mombasa Maize Millers and Pembe Flour Mills.
Documents presented before the committee indicates that Export pocketed Sh3.5 million, Hydery Sh3.1 billion and Kitui Mills Sh400 million.
Mombasa Maize Millers was paid Sh609 million and Pembe Flour Mills Sh400 million for alleged deliveries of imported maize.
Prof Mboga admitted before the committee that the ministry could only get vouchers that were used to import maize worth Sh2.49 billion and that the remaining expenditure could not be supported by any relevant documents.
“If I were there, I would have done it differently by allowing importers to bring in the maize and mill, and the government to give them duty remission,” he said.
“Those who had ships in high seas gave the maize immediately it docked. The maize then became nationalised. Those of us who came into office recently can only imagine what was going on then."
Mr Wandayi, however, told the PS and his delegation, which also included National Cereals and Produce Board Operations Manager Jones Kanyaa, that in the absence of documents, the committee could not confirm the country imported maize.
The MP expressed concern that the country may have imported ‘air’ and paid billions of shillings.
“No maize was imported. It was basically a gimmick, and the public lost billions of shillings. We shall catch those people and ensure they carry their own responsibility,” he said.
“Is it that the ministry or people who were involved imported air? Without vouchers, we cannot say maize was imported."
The PS said the procurement of maize from both local and international suppliers was sanctioned by the Cabinet and overseen by an interministerial committee.