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MPs raise alarm as godowns holding sugar fail safety test

Thursday June 28 2018

contraband sugar

Suspected contraband sugar in Nakuru. Police in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, have impounded more than 120 bags of suspected contraband sugar believed to be from Uganda. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NATION TEAM
By NATION TEAM
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MPs investigating the presence of counterfeit sugar in the country on Wednesday expressed shock at the deplorable conditions of the godowns in Nakuru.

After five hours of scrutinising documents at godowns belonging to Nakuru Blankets, Menengai Oilers Company and United Millers Ltd, members of the Agriculture and Trade committees raised concerns about the wanting storage conditions.

“There is only one warehouse storing the product in safe conditions and as per the health requirements – the United Millers. At Menengai Oilers, the environment is so poor that we wonder whether the public health department is working,” said Mr Emmanuel Wangwe, the Agriculture committee vice chairman.

They put to task the Public Health department, questioning whether the facilities had been inspected.

SLEEPING ON THE JOB

They accused the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) of sleeping on the job at the expense of Kenyans' lives and urged them to "pull up their socks". “We will also put to task officers from Kebs to explain how the sugar was imported. They are the country’s gatekeepers. Why do they have to allow the sugar into the country?” asked Mr Wangwe.

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According to documents by the companies, the consignments were imported into the country last year during the government’s duty-free importation programme intended to have Kenyans access the product at an affordable price.

However, it emerged that some of the companies hoarded the product awaiting higher prices.

At Nakuru Blankets, over half a million bags of sugar are under police guard as well as close to 20,000 metric tonnes of the product at Menengai Oil-ers.

Other MPs from the two committees also visited godowns in Mombasa and Webuye.

CONTRABAND SUGAR

In Mombasa, the MPs put on the spot three government agencies at the port over the flooding of contraband sugar in the market. Officials from Kebs, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) engaged in blame games as questions remained unanswered over the importation of contaminated sugar.

Coast regional Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Joseph Ng'ang'a further revealed 17 godowns suspected to be holding the contraband sugar are under investigations in the region.

During the sitting at the KPA headquarters in Mombasa, it emerged that last year alone 1.7 million tonnes of sugar were imported as per the KRA data base and Sh59.3 billion collected as revenue.

COLLECTED REVENUE

However, KRA Coast Regional Coordinator Nicholas Kinoti could no confirm to the committees whether the agency collected the revenue for the raw sugar that has been declared unsafe for human consumption. “You cannot expect me to know about the standard of sugar being imported as it is Kebs which deals with the chemistry part of the goods,” Mr Kinoti told the MPs.

Kebs quality assurance officer Augustine Wachira could also not state whether the agency at any time declared there was bad sugar being imported.

In Webuye, MPs sought views from residents and sugarcane farmers over the importation of contraband sugar. “We learnt through the media that there is an issue here over the importation of contraband sugar. We want to know if it’s here or not,” said Aldai MP Cornelly Serem.

Reported by Peter Mburu, Mohamed Ahmed and Dennis Lubanga