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Mwangi Kiunjuri vows to stay put over maize scam amid calls to resign

Saturday May 26 2018

Mwangi Kiunjuri

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri addresses parents and students during a prize-giving day at Mumbi Girls High School, Murang'a County, on May 26, 2018. PHOTO | NDUNGU GACHANE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NDUNGU GACHANE
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By STANLEY KIMUGE
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Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri has vowed not to resign over the scandal in which farmers from the Rift Valley breadbasket lost out to unscrupulous traders.

Mr Kiunjuri, who was responding just two days after a section of MPs from the Rift Valley called for his resignation, argued that he was the wrong person to blame for the mess.

“We know they are defending the cartels in the ministry and are against my efforts to clean the NCPB (National Cereals and Produce Board). Remember I was the first person to talk about the rot in the ministry while they remained silent,” Mr Kiunjuri said at Mumbi Girls’ High School in Murang’a town yesterday.

At the very least, the minister said, he was the whistle-blower and should be congratulated and not fought for working to remove the cartels. “Why are they not defending their mothers and grandmothers who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the fertiliser and the maize market with NCPB?” Mr Kiunjuri asked.

INVESTIGATIONS

He made the remarks as the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji ordered the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to involve the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Assets Recovery Agency in the ongoing investigations into the scandal. Mr Haji also wants the commission to work with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

Mr Kiunjuri said he has an audit report with incriminating evidence against some cartels, political leaders and NCPB workers and he will be handing over the report to the EACC and the DCI on Monday.

The minister, who was moved from the Devolution docket in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term, added that the war on corruption should not be seen as an attack on a certain community but on an individual who is found culpable. “By the way, even if I was to leave the ministry just know I will not go home. I have two hands; I’m a businessman and I will be here with you,” he said.

He dismissed claims that he had not gone for the big fish in the maize sale scandal, citing  the suspension of NCPB boss Newton Terer as an example of his tough stance against corruption.

EXPOSED SCAM

After an internal audit that exposed the scam, five top managers besides Mr Terer were suspended and 59 other officials put under investigation.

Murang’a MP Sabina Chege and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said every individual should carry his cross.

The escalation of the debate on Mr Kiunjuri’s job yesterday came days after Rift Valley leaders among them Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and his Moiben counterpart Silas Tiren called for his resignation.

Trans Nzoia Woman Representative Janet Nangabo said farmers should not suffer because of greed among some State officials.

“Already farmers have borne the brunt of cartels and the armyworm. Mr Kiunjuri and his team should step aside immediately,” said Ms Nangabo.

Speaking in Kisii on Friday, Deputy President William Ruto called for swift action on those involved. “How can one supply more than 200,000 bags to the National Cereals and Produce Board yet he or she has no land? Such a question needs an honest answer,” Mr Ruto said.

FARMERS' FRUSTRATIONS

Farmers aired their frustrations on the matter which they say has robbed them of their livelihood. Ms Chepchirchir Choge, a large-scale maize farmer in Moi’s Bridge, Uasin Gishu county, harvested 8,000 90kg bags of maize.

She had great expectations of a good income. But all her hopes have been dashed, thanks to the scandal at the NCPB in which brokers imported maize from Uganda and got paid all the money.

She supplied 6,000 bags to the depot but she was only paid for 3,000 bags. That means she still has 2,000 bags in her stores which have no market.

Hundreds of farmers like Ms Choge are stuck with thousands of bags of maize in their stores. The price in the open market has dropped below Sh2,000. NCPB was buying a bag at Sh3,000 for the Strategic Food Reserve.