KENYA – Several state agency officials have been placed in the spotlight after 20,000 bags of contaminated sugar that had been previously condemned allegedly found their way into the market.
The 27 officials from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), National Police Service (NPS), and Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) were suspended to pave way for investigations. Among them was Benard Njiraini, the KEBS Managing Director.
Head of Public Service Felix Koskei made the announcement in a statement, adding that the President had been informed of the incident, which he described as “irregular and criminal release of condemned sugar that had been earmarked for conversion into industrial ethanol.”
“It has since been established that the consignment was irregularly diverted and unprocedurally released. Further, the conditions relating to open and competitive enlisting of the distiller were breached and the applicable taxes were not paid,” read the statement in part.
In 2018, a company by the name Merako Investments Limited from Harare, Zimbabwe exported 20,000 bags of sugar each weighing 50kgs into the country, where KEBS rejected them for lack of an expiry date.
Following the sugar’s rejection by KEBS, it was transported to a go-down in Makongeni, Thika, where it is believed to have been kept for the past four years.
In accordance with KEBS regulations, “no goods that do not conform to the Kenyan standards or approved specifications shall be permitted into the country, and should be re-shipped, returned, or destroyed at the expense of the importer.”
On the other hand, in a letter to the KRA Commissioner General in December of last year, KEBS Managing Director Benard Njiraini stated: “KEBS has received a request from Assets and Cargo Ltd for conversion of the subject condemned brown sugar into ethanol through distillation.”
The release procedure of such a product to the agencies for conversion is described in detail in a Kenya Gazette notice. The organizations tasked with handling the sugar, though, did not adhere to the protocols. As a result, the government received no tax revenue.
KRA had not taken any action up until April of this year, but on April 29th Faith Kiara, writing on behalf of the Commissioner, Intelligence Strategic Operations Investigations and Enforcement, sent a letter requesting the release of the condemned sugar in Makongeni, Thika, subject to the payment of any outstanding taxes within 30 days of the release.
Following the processing of the cargo’s release by the two government agencies, KEBS dispatched one of its inspection officers to the Thika Vinepack godown on May 4 to assist the multi-agency team officers and the DCI in forcibly opening the facility to determine whether the shipment was still present.
Several state agency officials have been placed in the spotlight after 20,000 bags of contaminated sugar that had been previously condemned allegedly found their way into the market.
Despite having KRA seals on the locks of the godown when the team arrived at the Makongeni godown, which suggested that the sugar might already have hit the market and be available for purchase, the facility was empty when the crew opened it.
In addition to pursuing KEBS executives over the location of the condemned sugar that was intended to be re-shipped or destroyed by KEBS, the DCI has since initiated a hunt for the consignment.
Police nab expired milk powder
This comes just after police officers seized 1,511 bags of expired milk powder valued at more than Ksh.75 million (U.S$545,652) at a godown in Nairobi’s Eastlands neighborhood on Tuesday.
The milk powder was flagged at the Port of Mombasa, according to a statement from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), and it was scheduled for disposal because it had been deemed unfit for human consumption.
“The illegal shipment in which the government lost over Ksh.32 Million in unpaid taxes was immediately declared unfit for human consumption by officials from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS),” read part of the statement.
DCI stated that during the raid, they discovered 25 kg bags ready for repackaging with the labels indicating their expiration dates removed.
How the consignment ended up in the godown despite being an unauthorized shipment is the perplexing mystery that DCI, the Economic & Commercial Crimes Unit, and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) investigators are working to solve.
“It is suspected that the consignment was sneaked from a Mombasa-based godown, before being hauled to Nairobi secretly for repackaging, to be sold to unsuspecting members of the public,” the statement read.