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Economy

Ministry seeks AG help in NCPB turf war with food unit

NCPB silos
NCPB silos in Embakasi, Nairobi: the cereals board is locked in a war with SFR. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Agriculture ministry has turned to Head of Public Service, National Treasury and Attorney-General in efforts to resolve the long-running turf wars in the management of the national granary as debts hit Sh12.3 billion.

Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga told Parliament’s Agriculture Committee that the ministry has sought the intervention of the Treasury principal secretary Julius Muia, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and AG Paul Kihara to resolve the stalemate at the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The NCPB, headed by Mr Mutea Iringo as board chairman and Mr Joseph Kimote as managing director, has over the years been embroiled in turf wars with the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) — the managers of emergency food stocks — headed by Noah Wekesa.

“SFR and NCPB are like Siamese twins that need to learn how to work together. SFR owes NCPB Sh7 billion while NCPB is holding Sh8.7 billion that belongs to SFR. The NCPB has balances for SFR and vice versa and nobody is paying its bit,” Prof Boga told the committee that was chaired by Navokholo MP Emanuel Wangwe.

“I have asked Dr Muia and Mr Kinyua to mediate and clarify roles for SFR and NCPB so as to have a progressive arrangement,” Prof Boga told MPs, adding the two units have had a long-standing fight on how to settle bills belonging to each other.

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The ministry owes millers and merchants who supplied the government with maize during the 2017 flour crisis.

THE STALEMATE

A total of Sh3,962,511,573 is pending under the maize subsidy programme while Sh8.348 billion relate to historical bills under the fertiliser subsidy programme.

“There is a stalemate because there is Sh8.7 billion from sale of proceeds of maize which the Cabinet directed to be preserved. This money is there and we can’t touch it,” Prof Boga said.

“The two units have refused to sign an agreement. Everything is on goodwill by the way. It will require the intervention of the Treasury, the Attorney General and ourselves to resolve the standoff between SFR and NCPB,” the PS said in response to a question by Mogotio MP Daniel Tuitoek.

The National Treasury had allocated Sh2.6 billion for payment of validated historical pending bills for the financial year 2017/18 relating to maize subsidy but the cash is yet to be released.

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