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Economy

Yatani disbands Wekesa team in bid to calm storm at NCPB

Noah Wekesa
Strategic Food Reserve chairman Noah Wekesa briefs the media in Eldoret last July. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG 

Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani has disbanded the Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) board in an apparent effort to end turf wars that have rocked management of the national granary in the last four years.

Mr Yatani has effectively sent packing the team led by former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa after he revoked the Public Finance Management (Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund) regulations, of 2015, which created the SFR Trust Fund.

“The Public Finance Management (Strategic Food Reserve Trust Fund) Regulations, 2015 are revoked,” said Mr Yatani in the gazette notice dated April 14.

The development comes almost two months after the Cabinet directed the Treasury to wind up SFR in six months.

The outspoken Dr Wekesa has frequently clashed with the successive Agriculture Cabinet secretaries on the emotive issue of maize imports.

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Dissolution of SFR was first mooted by Agriculture Secretary Peter Munya, shortly after being appointed in the docket, arguing that the decision was informed by the fact that the body has been duplicating roles that are already carried out by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The move now brings to an end the bickering between the SFR and NCPB, which have been on a constant fight over service charges.

The NCPB has been at loggerheads with the SFR, claiming that the outfit led by Dr Wekesa owes it millions of shillings for the services such as buying and storage of strategic maize.

Dr Wekesa faulted the decision to disband SFR, saying the move was not in the best interest of the country, especially coming at a time when Kenya faces a serious maize shortage.

“The decision to disband SFR is largely seen as a plan by some people to mismanage the funds that we have in our accounts,” he said in an earlier interview.

SFR has at least Sh10 billion in its account arising from the sales of maize that they have been selling to millers and other institutions from their stores.

SFR had in February written to Kilimo, seeking authorisation to import maize to bridge the expected deficit.

A section of millers have raised concerns over the decision to dissolve SFR, saying it does not augur well for the food security in the country.

“SFR has been playing an important role by ensuring that we have buffer stocks in the country, which have been very instrumental in times of shortages,” said the millers who sought anonymity.

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