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State sends home 27 top officers over 2018 Kebs sugar scandal


State sends home 27 top officers over 2018 Kebs sugar scandal


Kenya Bureau of Standards managing director Bernard Njiraini. FILE PHOTO | NMG

President William Ruto’s administration has suspended 27 government employees over the release of condemned sugar to the public that had been declared unfit for human consumption in 2018 and earmarked for conversion into industrial ethanol.

In a statement on Wednesday night, the Chief of Staff and Head of the Public Service Felix Koskei said the sugar consignment comprising 20,000 bags of 50 kilogrammes each had been imported into the country in 2018 and condemned by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) for want of expiry date specification.

“Kebs condemned the consignment as unfit for human consumption and directed that the consignment be reshipped and destroyed at the owner’s cost,” the statement said.

In the discharge of its statutory mandate, Kebs National Council approved destruction through conversion of the consignment for industrial ethanol use. He said the industrial conversion was to be implemented jointly by Kebs and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), within a multi-agency framework.

“The condition precedent to the conversion were; involvement of all the concerned regulatory agencies; sourcing a distiller through an open and competitive process; and securing the payment of applicable taxes and statutory fees,” the statement added.

Irregular diversion

The public service boss said on Wednesday night that the State has since established that the consignment was irregularly diverted and unprocedurally released.

“Further, the conditions relating to open and competitive enlisting of the distiller were breached and the applicable taxes were not paid,” Koskei said.

“In the recognition of the unique mandate of the agencies as vanguards of public health and safety, it is manifest that some officers in the relevant agencies abdicated their responsibilities, at the risk of public harm.”

Treasury and Trade cabinet secretaries have consequently sanctioned the administrative action to suspend the officers pending investigations, Koskei said.

Those sent home include Kebs managing director Lt. Col (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini, Dr Geoffrey Muriira (Director Quality Assurance and Inspection), Hilda Keror (Manager Inspection, Mombasa Port Office), Liston Lagat (Assistant Manager (ICDN Nairobi) and Stephen Owuor, a principal officer. Also suspended from Kebs is Mr Peter Olima Joseph, an inspector in the Mombasa office.

At the Kenya Revenue Authority, the government has suspended Joseph Kagure, Mwanja Masinde, Stephen Muiruri, Moses Okoth, Doris Mutembei, Chacha Hondo, Carol Nyagechi and Derick Kago. The statement did not give details of their titles and station.

The scandal has also seen the suspension of two police officers from the National Police Service — George Mithamo and Joel Kirui.

Others suspended are Bernard Ngumbi and Raphael Mwaka from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. At the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), the scam has claimed Oscar Kai and Patrick Magut.

The other officers on the suspension list include Joseph Maita Mweni (Port Health), Isacko Bonai (Nema), Stephen Cheruiyot (Anti-Counterfeit Agency), Daniel Ngugi (Kephis), Willy Koskei (EACC) and Edwin Ruto (KPA).

The suspension comes at a time when Kenyans have been hit by one of the biggest increases in prices of sugar in more than a decade as players blame shortage.

Read: Tougher times for consumers as sugar prices rally on low imports

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