Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia has dismissed the possibility of either the county or national government bailing out a troubled agro-processing firm until a forensic audit is done.
He said those agitating for Sh2 billion to revive Midlands' potato processing factory are fraudsters since the value of the entire entity is about Sh500 million, terming it high-level conmanship.
A resolution to have the county invest in the company had been passed by the previous administration under ex-Governor Daniel Waithaka but the devolved unit declined to pump cash into the firm for the same reasons given by Mr Kimemia.
“I am not going to be blackmailed or intimidated. They can keep singing, dancing and spreading falsehoods. But we cannot invest any public money before a forensic audit and the few individuals owning majority shares relinquish them to farmers,” said Mr Kimemia.
The county boss said there was massive looting of the facility located in Nyandarua by the previous management, which he claims is now agitating for the bailout.
“They took a loan of Sh200 million which cannot be accounted for. We can’t pump public money in an entity where the farmers own less than 5 per cent and two or three individuals own controlling shares. They must surrender them to the farmers,” he said.
However, Mr Kimemia says that once a comprehensive audit is done and every coin accounted for, he will spearhead the factory’s revival by mobilising county and national resources.
“The Sh2 billion they are asking for is enough to construct three or more modern farm produce processing factories in Nyandarua. Why do they take me for a fool? I am not easy to blackmail or intimidate...they can continue inciting and taking advantage of ignorant people but I am not shaken,” said the governor.
The company was officially opened in 2004 by agriculture minister Kipruto Kirwa but commenced potato processing in 2011.
However, its operations nearly halted due to mismanagement.
It is the only agricultural produce processing factory in Nyandarua.
The plant peeled, chopped and packaged Irish potatoes in vacuum packs which would then be sold in eateries in Nairobi and other big towns across the country.
According to farmers, leadership wrangles and selfish interests contributed to the collapse of the 60,000 tones capacity factory.
However, despite its high processing potential, the company could only manage to store less than a tone of potatoes in its warehouses thus exposing farmers to brokers.
This affected the the firm's productivity resulting in debts amounting to about Sh200 million.
The national government is planning a separate potato processing factory in Ndaragua constituency, which will translate to improved markets for local farmers and competition for Midlands.