Ruto: I will not resign over maize scandal

Published on 06/02/2009

By Joseph Murimi and Isaac Ongiri

Agriculture Minister William Ruto clung to his Cabinet position, vowing the maize sale saga was a scandal that never was. Borrowing from the infamous line used by Mr Kiraitu Murungi to describe Anglo Leasing Finance Sh7.2 billion scandals before finally caving in to pressure to quit his post until cleared, Ruto said he would not forfeit his position over what he called ‘lies’.

“I have no problem resigning, I was not born a minister. However, I would not dignify lies, I am innocent,’’ said Ruto, as the nation’s attention remained riveted on him and each of his moves.

The minister dismissed the maize scam as “one that never was”, saying it was a creation of individuals out to bring him down by tarnishing his name.

He said he doesn’t ‘see’ scandal because not a single bag of maize was lost or was not paid for. The minister has however been under the pressure to clear his name following claims he meddled with the management of the strategic reserve and a company he is associated with.

However despite the minister’s insistence their was no financial loss, he will be hard put to explain to the nation why the maize was sold even as signs were out there the country risked grain shortage due to failed rains and drastic effects of post-election violence.

The minister said the sale of maize at National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was procedural and denied ever writing notes or making calls to assist profiteers get maize which they later sold to millers causing the price of maize flour to skyrocket.

He said he would only step aside if concrete evidence incriminating him has been produced.

“I will not resign on basis of rumours, half truths and lies. Where is the scandal? I cannot see it unless the definition of scandal has changed,” said Ruto.

“It is not about the fight against corruption; it is political intrigue. Corruption is not fought that way. It is fought with facts,” he said.

He said there are some people who believe that he should not be the minister for Agriculture.

“After months of discussions no evidence against me has been produced,’’ stated Ruto.

Dignify lies

Speaking from his Kilimo House office, the minister said resigning would dignify the peddlers of lies, rumours and half-truths.

The Eldoret North MP said he had achieved a lot in the short time he has been the minister for Agriculture and his detractors are envious of the achievements.

He distanced Amaco from the scandal, saying it has no business ties with the NCBP. He however, declined to reveal his shareholding at Amaco because “the issue is a private business affair.”

He said Amaco did not inquire, tender or supply gunny bags to NCPB.

Amaco Managing Director Silas Simotwo said any communication with the Indian firm involved in the deal was in his private capacity.

Ruto introduced his personal assistant, Mr Oscar Simato, who denied having written any letter to NCPB to help profiteers buy maize.

The minister said six managers of NCPB — R Langat, Peter Mutua, Augustine Maritim, Barnabas Osoro, David Chepkwony and Godfrey Mureithi — have been sacked. He said this was part of re-organisation and restructuring of the board while others were sack for incompetence.

Ruto attacked Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale, the MP who

tabled damning documents in Parliament that sought to link Ruto to the maize scandal.

Meanwhile, the Government has launched investigations into claims of a multimillion shilling racket involving millers re-selling maize to National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB)

Agriculture Assistant Minister Kareke Mbiuki warned that some millers could be playing games with the Government to make huge profits.

Speaking to The Standard, Mbiuki said some millers are buying maize from NCPB at Sh1,750 and posing as farmers to sell the same to the Government at Sh2,300.

He warned that the maize cartels could purchase all maize at the NCPB, including what the Government ordered at higher costs then sell to the Government again.

The minister also said that the NCPB had failed to distribute the subsidised maize several weeks after processing, a problem he attributed to the board structural problems that make it an incompetent distributor.

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