The Senate Ad-hoc Committee probing the origin of the Shs.8billion maize stocks rotting in the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) silos has queried border agencies ability to guard Kenyans against low quality imports.
The committee chaired by Senator Margaret Kamar raised the doubts after a two-hour grilling of heads of Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) at Malaba OneStop Border Post in Busia County.
The doubts emerged after Peter Kirwa who is in charge of KEBS candidly stated that he checks the moisture content of maize imports picked randomly while physically examining the presence of weevils, the colour, broken maize and level of impurities.
“We normally sample about 10 bags in a container. We spike and check the moisture content. We don’t have any lab within the border but we rather rely on the one in Nairobi,” Kirwa told the Committee.
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Kamar said the Senate mandated the committee to establish why stores become full before farmers deliver their produce and why farmers are yetto paid for maize delivered since September last year.
She said the committee’s purpose of visiting the border point was to understand how the processing of maize imports is done. Kamar said by law, any white maize imports must meet the set quality parameters before they are let into Kenyan territory.
“The country of origin must be indicated, the maize must not be genetically modified, the aflatoxin levels must be up to the set standard, the moisture content must not exceed 14.5 m3 and the imports should be accompanied by a certificate of conformity issued by an agency appointed by KEBS,” she explained.
Wetangula on his part said it’s ironical for respective agencies including KRA, KEPHIS, KEBS and Customs-charged with protecting the country against substandard imports to purport to do so when on the ground they lack the necessary facilities.
“For instance KEPHIS and KEBS which are supposed to use laboratories to check the quality of maize entering the country, they merely check the moisture content and physically examine the maize.
“However in our recommendations we shall indicate ways in which operations of these agencies can be improved so that we don’t put lives of millions of Kenyans at risk,” Wetang’ula noted.
Wetang’ula also took issue with KRA Nairobi after it emerged the Uganda maize import figures it gave the committee are quite low compared to the ones at Malaba KRA office.
“Between April and October 2017 which is the period we are investigating to ascertain the origin of the rotting maize, the Nairobi office records show only a total of 1800 metric tonnes were imported compared to 12,400 metric tonnes that came only through Malaba.
“It means there is more Maize that came from Uganda because the figure is exclusive of other entry points like Busia and Lwakhakha,” he said directing KRA regional coordinator John Gathakwa to avail to the committee all maize imports in the respective period.
He said the government should ensure the NCPB silos give priority to local farmers’ maize before they take that one from unscrupulous businessmen.
Other senators present included Christopher Langat, Petronila Lokorio, Boniface Kabaka and Mary Seneta.