Government orders release of seized ethanol to make free sanitisers


Plastic tanks containing ethanol impounded at Kasarani Police Line in Nakuru on March 27, 2017. FILE PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NMG

In efforts to address the biting shortage of hand sanitisers, the Kenyan government is now turning to an unlikely source --seized ethanol.

Ethanol is a key component in the production of alcoholic drinks and alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

In a directive issued on Thursday morning, the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua has instructed members of a multi-agency team to urgently identify all ethanol held under any offences at the various ports of entry and Customs areas and subsequently to release it to the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

“The government is desirous of distributing affordable sanitisers to the general public. To this end, corporations in the oil industry have volunteered to produce alcohol-based sanitisers for distribution for free to the general public,” Mr Kinyua says in the letter.

The Head of Public Service adds, “KPC will liaise with the oil industry players, who have expressed willingness to produce the sanitisers, for the expedited manufacture and distribution.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of the alcohol-based sanitisers as one way of preventing the spread of coronavirus which has been declared to be a worldwide pandemic.

In the arrangement, KPC is expected “to implement an accountability framework to ensure that the ethanol is utilised for the manufacture and distribution of the sanitisers.”

Mr Kinyua addressed the letter to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner-General James Mburu, National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA) MD Mamo Mamo, the Director of Public Health Dr Patrick Amoth and the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti.

The directive was also sent to the managing directors of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Dr Daniel Manduku, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) Lt Col (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini, and KPC's Dr Macharia Irungu. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chief executive Twalib Mbarak was also copied.

In 2015, KRA, in a public notice, introduced procedures to govern access, purchase, and importation of ethanol pursuant to the government’s initiative to combat illicit production and consumption of spirits.

There are thousands of litres of impounded ethanol in various government stores, according to the multi-agency team.