By Winnie Atieno
A parliamentary committee wants Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett to resign for misleading the country on food crisis.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture claims some top government officials were colluding with cartels to create an artificial deficit to import maize, sugar, fertiliser and milk.
Speaking during a meeting at Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa, the committee told Mr Bett to take full responsibility for misleading parliament and the country that the country had enough food in January only to change tune.
The CS had told the committee the country had adequate maize in its strategic reserve to last eight months and now the committee’s vice chairman Kareke Mbiuki says the food crisis was due to Mr Bett’s poor leadership.
He claimed that the CS has ‘blocked’ funds released by the Treasury for the National Irrigation Board.
“How will the government be able to manage irrigation sector in this country? There’s inefficiency by the officers who are mismanaging Jubilee manifestos. We are asking President Uhuru Kenyatta to really relook at people they are recruiting from private sector who are messing up,” said the vice chairman.
The members also threatened to visit the Port of Mombasa to verify the type of maize consignment the CS received last Friday.
Mr Mbiuki added: “We are in serious darkness. What we heard is that private players were given permission to bring yellow maize for animal feeds.
“We have also been told the government has allowed white maize to be brought. We don’t know which maize the CS was receiving. Was he receiving white, yellow, blue, indigo, orange or which one. This man must go,” said the MP.
Mr Mbiuki said for the last four years the ministry has been unable to produce anything “tangible” at the multibillion shillings Galana-Kulalu ranch project.
He added that in 2016/2017, parliament passed more than Sh2 billion to construct water pans in the country.
“But the CS has sat down on all payments and procurement process,” he added.
Another member, Mary Wambui said the committee just wants to establish the truth on the food status in the country.
“He said there is enough food but we are wondering why we are importing. We saw a lot of maize when we went to Eldoret,” said the Othaya MP.
“If it is true there was maize then the CS needs to account for it. How was it used? How was it taken out? But if it is true the maize wasn’t there then he lied and misled this committee and by extension the whole country at large,” said member of the committee, Opiyo Wandayi.
The Ugunja MP wondered how the CS suddenly started processing importation of the maize.
“We are just from being informed there is a shortage then out of the blues we are told there’s maize which has docked in the port.
“At what stage did the importation process start? If it was imported by a private player, what privilege information did he have that the rest of the country did not have?” he asked.
The Agriculture CS received 335,000 bags of Mexican maize at the Mombasa port.
It would take about three days to offload the grains from the vessel, after which it will be transported to millers.