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NBK suspends chief finance officer linked to Mumias Sugar scam

National Bank CFO Chris Kisire (L) with bank
National Bank CFO Chris Kisire (L) with bank chair Mohamed Hassan. The lender announced his suspension to allow him to clear his name. PHOTO | FILE |   NATION MEDIA GROUP

The National Bank of Kenya (NBK) has suspended its chief finance officer who is linked to the gross mismanagement at sugar miller Mumias, where he held a similar position.

NBK yesterday announced that Chris Kisire has been serving suspension since April when he was mentioned in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s list of allegedly corrupt public servants.

Mr Kisire’s suspension reflects the difficult position the bank had found itself in regarding the executive who has been in charge of its finance docket since September 2013.

“Mr Kisire has been serving suspension since April 2015,” NBK said in a statement coming a day after Mr Uhuru ordered that assets of those who looted Mumias be seized and sold.

“(His suspension comes) after his name featured in the list of those individuals who needed to clear their names.”

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Mr Kisire was appointed Mumias’ finance director in September 2012, replacing Peter Kebati who became CEO after the current Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero quit to run for political office.

The suspended CFO, 48, held the job at the sugar miller until August 2013 after which he resigned to take up a similar position at NBK the next month following the restructuring of the lender’s executive suite.

He has previously served as finance director at media firm Standard Group and as CEO of Sovereign Group, an investment firm associated with the family and allies of former President Daniel arap Moi. 

Mumias has been running on limited cash for the past two years following a series of mega scandals including diversion of sugar and theft of ethanol, a by-product.

The plundering at the sugar firm has left it on its knees, with a long queue of creditors and suppliers (including farmers) who are demanding approximately Sh6.5 billion.

An audit by consultancy firm KPMG last year exposed the extent of the rot in the company, triggering the government’s bailout efforts and the sacking of several top managers.

Some of those who were sacked (including Mr Kebati) were later charged with operating secret accounts to facilitate illegal sugar imports that cost the listed miller Sh1.1 billion. Mr Kisire had already joined NBK as the saga unraveled at Mumias.

The executive’s name however surfaced in the President’s “list of shame”, recommending that he too should be investigated over mismanagement at Kenya’s biggest sugar producer.

“When he was interviewed for the position, the Mumias saga had not broken,” NBK said in its statement.

“We consulted with the Central Bank of Kenya, the government, its lawyers and Mr Kisire before sending him on compulsory suspension.”

While presenting a Sh1 billion bailout package to Mumias on Wednesday, the President urged the anti-graft watchdog and the DPP’s office to investigate the misappropriation of funds, which has left the miller in financial distress.

He said people who have been given the mandate to investigate corruption should do their jobs, noting that they are liable for graft cases that go unpunished.

The cash-strapped miller reported a first half loss of Sh2.08 billion from a restated amount of Sh407.4 million a year earlier, citing lower prices as well as a prolonged shutdown, but forecast an improved second half.

The firm, whose sugar output accounts for about a third of Kenya’s annual production, said net revenue for the period to end-December fell 62 per cent to Sh2.67 billion.

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