We got maize through clean deal, Ruto associates say

Published on 06/02/2009

By Vincent Bartoo

Agriculture Minister William Ruto’s political allies in the North Rift region were this week caught up in the maize scandal.

It has emerged that some of them might have secured maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) for a song.

They were allocated thousands of bags of maize, which they claim to have bought but actually never left the NCPB depots.

Investigations by The Sunday Standard revealed that they secured authorisation letters to NCPB depots countrywide, allowing them access to different quantities of maize.

They purportedly bought the maize from NCPB at Sh1,750 a 90kg bag then resold the produce at Sh2,600 to millers for the same quantity.

The millers collected the maize from NCPB depots, hence the sellers did not incur transport costs.

The millers would later process the maize to flour and sell it at high prices, reflecting the cost they incurred in buying the maize from the brokers.

Those who spoke to The Standard on Sunday pleaded innocence. They maintained they are hardworking businessmen who just happen to be Ruto’s associates.

Uasin Gishu politician Jackson Kibor admitted that he was allocated 100,000 bags but denied he got help from Ruto to get the maize.

He is among those named in Parliament last week as having been allocated the maize to mill through his Mafuta farm.

Kibor’s farm has however no milling capacities but insisted he was allocated the maize in his capacity as a businessman.

“I bought them because NCPB was selling maize. There were no restrictions as to who qualified to buy the maize,” he said.

Another Ruto ally, Mr Oscar Sudi, also defended himself from claims he used his influence to get allocations from NCPB.

“I have always had a contract with Unga Limited to supply them with maize. So when I bought maize from NCPB, I was simply meeting my obligations,” he said.

Kibor and Sudi denied they exported the maize to Southern Sudan where a 90Kg bag of maize is said to be fetching a minimum of Sh3,000.

“As far as I am concerned, I am not guilty of any offence because I bought the maize with my money and did not break into NCPB stores to steal it. I also did not sneak the maize outside the country,” said Sudi.

Kibor showed journalists a copy of a letter he wrote to the NCPB depot manager in Moi’s Bridge directing him to allow Mombasa Maize Millers to collect his 100,000 bags.

But he was hard pressed to explain why the maize remained at the depot after buying it.

Expressed interest

“I bought it and immediately sold it because the millers were offering a good price. So it did not have to leave the depot,” he said.

Mr Silas Simotwo, the managing director of an Insurance firm associated with Ruto, is another man on the spot over the maize scam.

He is alleged to have used his influence as a close aide of Ruto to push through a deal to supply NCPB with gunny bags worth Sh153 million to pave way for the selling of the maize by the board.

Simotwo admitted having expressed his interest to supply the gunny bags but denied using African Merchant Assurance Company (Amaco) to secure the deal.

“I came across a tender for the supply of the bags advertised by NCPB and I got interested,” he said.

Added Simotwo: “Acting in my personal capacity, I made inquiries about the tender including asking for prices of gunny bags which I intended to import cheaply from India.”

Simotwo said he never got to deliver the gunny bags as he learnt the Government later cancelled the tender and bought the bags for NCPB.

“I did not intend to use Amaco’s money to buy the gunny bags. This was purely a personal initiative,” he reiterated.

Simotwo denied he authored letters authorising NCPB to allocate maize to companies linked to prominent personalities.

“I am not the minister’s personal assistant, neither am I a Government employee. So how could I have had the authority to write letters bearing Ruto’s official letterhead?” he posed.

Kibor and Simotwo accused Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale of witch-hunt when he implicated them in the scam in Parliament on Wednesday.

“Khalwale is abusing the privileges he has in Parliament to tarnish the names of innocent and hardworking Kenyans who just happen to be Ruto’s associates,” said Simotwo.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny has also been fighting off claims that he is among those who got a share of maize allocations by virtue of his close relations with Ruto.

The MP insists he is “a principled man who can never betray the interests of Kenyans for individual ends”.

Ruto hosted the MP and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba in his Eldoret North constituency last week. The two denied involvement in the maize scam.

“If I will be found to have been part of this alleged scam, I will be the first MP in a long time to resign from Parliament,” declared Namwamba.

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