Fertiliser scandal: Saving Mithika Linturi has put Parliament to shame, Azimio MPs say

Jack Wamboka,

Bumula MP Jack Wamboka, Busia Woman Rep Catherine Omanyo (left) and Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba address journalists at Parliament Buildings on May 13, 2024. Mr Mamboka was behind the motion to impeach Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A section of MPs has criticised their seven colleagues in the special committee who voted to save Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi from being impeached over the fake fertiliser scandal, accusing them of going against the will of Kenyans.

MPs Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Irene Mayaka (nominated) and Junet Mohamed (Suna East) issued the criticism as four of the 11-committee members produced their dissenting report in which they said Mr Linturi was at the centre of the scandal.

The special committee chaired by Marsabit Woman Rep Naomi Waqo tabled its report exonerating Mr Linturi of all charges.

The committee was formed to investigate the grounds of a motion for the dismissal of the CS by Bumula MP Wanami Wamboka.

All the Kenya Kwanza MPs in the committee—Ms Waqo, Samuel Chepkong’a (UDA, Ainabkoi), George Murugara (UDA, Tharaka), Malulu Injendi (ANC, Malava), Njeri Maina (UDA, Kirinyaga) and Kassim Tandaza (ANC, Matuga) voted to save Mr Linturi.

The Azimio la Umoja One kenya side—Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui (Wiper, Kathiani), Tom Kajwang’ (ODM, Ruaraka), Catherine Omanyo (ODM, Busia) and Yusuf Farah (ODM, Wajir West) wanted the CS sacked.

Substandard fertiliser

But even as the committee members pulled in different directions, they were unanimous that fake and substandard fertiliser was procured and distributed by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). They also agreed that farmers suffered loss as a result of the fake fertiliser.

Mr Wandayi said that it was wrong for the special committee to go against the decision of the “149 MPs who overwhelmingly voted to establish the committee to investigate the conduct of the CS”.

“It was not the intention of the drafters of the constitution that the decision of the committee should countermand the overwhelming decision of this House,” said Mr Wandayi, noting that Mr Linturi ought to have resigned “like yesterday”.

CS Mithika Linturi's impeachment trial

“This House must remain firm and assert its authority. This House has a duty not to recognise Linturi as the CS. The decisions of a few members of the committee have brought this House to shame ... a laughing stalk,” he said.

According to Mr Amollo, the seven members who voted to save Mr Linturi “failed Kenyans and must carry their own shame”.

“The farmers of Kenya must know who truly their friends are, between the Kenya Kwanza coalition and Azimio. The House spoke and its decision should have invited the Cabinet secretary to resign,” he said.

The Rarieda MP added that only the President can save farmers since he “does not need this House to solve the issue”.

But even as the MPs castigated their colleagues, Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah said the matter was rushed.

“They should have waited for the decision of the Agriculture committee that is investigating the matter,” said Mr Ichung’wah.

Mr Junet said that the committee’s verdict “was not the expectation of the people”.

The dissenting minority report stated that the CS was culpable after analysing the allegations and grounds in the motion. They found Linturi culpable for failing to operationalise the Fertiliser and Animal Foodstuffs Board of Kenya saying it amounts to gross violation of the constitution or any other law.

Gross incompetence

The primary statute for the fertiliser subsidy programme is the Fertilizer and Animal Foodstuffs Act.

“The Act provides for the establishment of a board and it is the sole duty of the CS to operationalise the same,” the minority report states, noting that failure by the CS to appoint the board shows wilful gross violation of the law or gross incompetence.

“The minority therefore finds that to that extent, the ground of gross violation of the constitution and the law is substantiated,” the report states.

The functions of the board as per the Act include advising the national and county governments on the procurement, importation and efficient and timely distribution of subsidised fertilisers and animal foodstuffs.

The board is also required to establish retail outlets for fertilisers and animal foodstuffs in the counties and develop policies related to the manufacture and distribution of the same.

“It is clear from the provisions of the law that the procurement and distribution of subsidised fertiliser falls squarely within the ambit of the board and no other entity. The minority aver that any other entity that purports to procure and distribute subsidised fertiliser is illegal,” states the report.

The CS assumed office in 2022 and the law has been in place from 2015. During his interrogation by the special committee, he acknowledged that he had not established the board and said that it was work in progress.

Subsidised fertiliser

While the CS failed to establish the board, he set up, through his ministry, “an illegal entity”—the National Fertiliser Monitoring Committee. “This demonstrates intention on the part of the CS and ignorance of the Fertilizer and Foodstuffs Act is not a defence”, the minority says.

The report goes on to state that the monitoring committee “lacks any mandate when it comes to procurement and distribution of subsidised fertiliser.”

“It has no basis in law and none of the functions of the National Cereals and Produce Board Act, include procurement and distribution of subsidized fertilizer,” it states.

Executive Order No.23 on the organization of government lists NCPB as an institution under the Agriculture department but it is not granted powers to procure and distribute subsidised fertilizer.

The minority report further noted that by providing misleading information to a committee of Parliament, Mr Linturi was guilty of gross violation of the law.

“The CS had the responsibility of giving Kenyans accurate information once the fake fertiliser scandal was unearthed. Instead, as evidenced by audio-visual clips played before the committee and the record of the Agriculture committee, the CS blatantly went before the media on various occasions giving conflicting accounts and misleading Kenyans even further,” the minority states in the report.