Treasury: Uhuru administration paid Sh4bn to 'ghost' maize millers

Trucks loaded with maize queue to deliver the produce to the National Cereals and Produce Board, Eldoret depot

Trucks loaded with maize queue to deliver the produce to the National Cereals and Produce Board, Eldoret depot in Uasin Gishu County on February 2, 2023. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

The National Treasury has asked Parliament to help with investigations into the Sh4 billion paid to millers from last year’s maize subsidy programme, in a move that is likely to delay payment to the processors.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u said that even though the Sh4 billion is said to have been paid to millers, Treasury cannot trace the actual firms that received the money even as there is a claim of another Sh4 billion that processors are owed by the government.

“Parliament should assist us to investigate the Sh4 billion subsidy money because we do not have capacity to do it ourselves as it might take a political angle,” Prof Ndung’u told the Budget Appropriation Committee of the House on Monday.

The subsidy programme took a political turn, with concerns being raised that it could not have reached the intended beneficiaries and that is why there is need for investigations.

The amount of money owed to millers results from the Sh8 billion subsidy that was introduced by former President Uhuru Kenyatta to tame the high cost of flour that had topped Sh250 for a two-kilogramme packet. The scheme lowered the cost of the staple to Sh100.

The subsidy programme started shortly before the election and was largely viewed as a political tool to woo voters.

The exercise, which restricted millers to sell flour at Sh100 for a two-kilogramme packet, was marred with shortage of the commodity on shelves, forcing supermarkets to limit purchases to two packets.

This comes at a time when millers have, since August last year, been demanding Sh4 billion from the Ministry of Agriculture as a balance of what the government owes them from the flour that they fed to the market during the subsidy era.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Harsama Kellow said the matter lies with the Treasury and not the Ministry of Agriculture at the moment.

“This issue is currently being handled by the Treasury and they are best placed to respond to queries from millers,” said Mr Kellow.