KENYA – Esther Ngari, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Director of Standards Development and Trade, has stepped in to steer the country’s standards regulator as its new Acting Managing Director after a condemned sugar scandal that led to the suspension of KEBS boss Lt. Col (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini.
Esther was appointed by the Bureau’s policy-making body, the National Standards Council (NSC), together with six other officials who were also implicated in the fiasco.
However, this will not be her first time in the role. Last year, she was appointed to take over in a 6-month acting capacity after Njiraini’s term came to an abrupt end following a court ruling that dismissed his previous appointment as being irregular.
Justice Maureen Onyango of the Employment and Labour Relations Court quashed the appointment of Mr. Njiraini, stating that he was handpicked contrary to the law, yet the process should be open to public participation.
According to KEBS, Ms. Ngari has been lauded for her exemplary work in creating new standards that were previously non-existent in the country.
She becomes the second female to head the standards assurance agency following in the footsteps of Eva Oduor who held the post back in 2012.
Zachariah Lukorito will take over her former role as the Acting Director of Standards Development and Trade.
Bernard Nguyo has also come on board to replace the suspended Director of Quality Assurance and Inspection, Dr. Geoffrey Muriira.
Other officials joining the team in an interim capacity include Peter Makan (Acting Chief Manager, Quality Assurance – Nairobi), Mutuma Muthuri (Acting Manager, Inspection – Mombasa Port Office), and Henry Sambul (Acting Assistant Manager, Kilindini).
Bernard Njiraini was suspended together with 27 other state agency officials from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), National Police Service (NPS), and Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) after 20,000 bags of contaminated sugar that had been previously condemned in 2018 allegedly found their way into the market.
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.
Nevertheless, KRA officials who recently visited the facility were greeted by an empty warehouse with the whereabouts of the sugar consignments still a mystery waiting to be unraveled.