President William Ruto yesterday fired a warning shot to corrupt officials even as details of an alleged falling-out between a Cabinet Secretary, a top government officer, and two MPs on how to share proceeds from the expired sugar blew cover on the unfolding scandal.
Multiple sources within government disclosed how the senior official and two MPs from Central Kenya hatched a plot to release the condemned sugar that was stored at the ICDC in Mombasa customs depot by Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
The CS in question is said to have got wind of the deal and demanded a cut. He is said to have been seeking his spoils through a senior official in one of the implicated agencies. The said official was among those suspended when the scandal broke.
Saturday Nation has established that what could have been a smooth operation with state players’ protection was exposed after claims by some of the individuals involved that they were being shortchanged by the senior government official. One of the MPs, in his second term, is said to have unsuccessfully tried to get his cut.
Also Read: How lethal sugar vanished from warehouse
All this while the consignment had been sold, with some players allegedly pocketing the entire amount. “The MP reached out to the Kenya Revenue Authority about what was happening. KRA conducted some investigations before briefing the President, like two weeks ago,” said one source.
According to other sources, the CS was disgruntled after missing out on the loot and decided to escalate the matter with the powers that be. Some sources, however, said the CS was a whistleblower but was now being sucked into the scandal allegedly for political expediency.
It is said that it was after their brief exposing the release of the toxic sugar that the President called in Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Amin Mohammed to launch a probe into the matter.
Yesterday, President Ruto declared he will personally lead the war on graft, declaring that he will have no favourites in his administration.
“I will take personal responsibility for the accountability of the resources of this country. No one will be allowed to steal the republic's resources...you try and you will encounter me personally," said Dr Ruto. “I have told everyone...my friends and those who are not my friends, that corrupting public resources is a no-go zone...I will be speaking less on this, but action will declare my intentions louder.”
Plans to secure a buyer for the condemned sugar are said to have started when the senior official was informed that a consignment had been held at the port since 2018 and could be released for other purposes.
Since 2021, attempts to convert the sugar into industrial ethanol had been delayed because of a court case. The said conversion was to be jointly supervised by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the National Environment Management Authority.
The two MPs are said to have taken advantage of the planned conversion to hijack the sugar through collusion with some officials in charge of the consignment. The deliberations allegedly roped in the Kebs officials, initiating the release through a letter from suspended Kebs MD Bernard Njiraini to former KRA Commissioner General Mburu Githii copied to Head of Public Service and Trade CS Moses Kuria.
A document, authored by Kebs Director of Quality Assurance Geoffrey Muriira and approved by Mr Njiraini on behalf of the National Standard Council, recommended the release of the sugar for conversion into ethanol “as there is no risk to human beings or animals as the proposed ethanol was only for industrial use”.
The process was allegedly overseen by the beneficiary politicians who had a ready buyer. According to insiders aware of the probe, the file of those accused is still with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution pending recommendations for prosecution. It emerged yesterday that the suspects are to be arraigned on Tuesday next week, while others will be turned into state witnesses. Others could be subjected to internal administrative action.
Accounts of these events are corroborated by correspondences by some of the agencies involved in the movement of the 20,000-50kg bags of sugar. Only 14 bags have been recovered by investigating officers. In a letter dated April 25, Vinepack Limited director Peter Mwangi wrote to Mr Njiraini acknowledging receipt of the condemned sugar on April 20. The same day, KRA reported the deactivation of seals and the handing over of the containers at Vinepark Industries Thika.
“We have facilitated the deactivation of RECTS seals and the breaking of customs seals of the mentioned 40x20 containers found to contain items in bags said to be condemned brown sugar manifested,” reads a report by Thika Customs Station manager Carol Nyagechi.
Barely three days later, KRA’s Faith Kiara, on behalf of the commissioner for intelligence, strategic operations, investigations and enforcement, questioned the release of the sugar from Kings Commodity Limited.