By The Weekly Vision Team
Just a few weeks after he was transferred from the Ministry of Trade to that of Public Service, Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria’s dirty past has come back to haunt him. According to well-placed sources, the CS is on the radar of investigating agencies over his direct involvement in the importation of edible oil worth Ksh 15 billion through the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC). The oil now lying unused in warehouses because the intended beneficiaries cannot afford to buy it.
The CS is said to have taken direct control of the importation process without consulting or working hand in hand with agriculture CS Mithika Linturi, where the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) is domiciled. Sources claim that the prices of imported oil are double compared to what is available on the market.
A few individuals in government are alleged to have pocketed huge amounts of money in the form of kickbacks and commissions. The well-planned scam began with Kuria’s proposal to revive and fund the Kenya National Trading Corporation, ostensibly to import food under government-sponsored subsidies. There are assertions that from the KTNC edible oil importation deal, an unnamed Cabinet Secretary bought a residential house in Dubai worth Ksh. 270 million.
The big question on the lips of many Kenyans is why taxpayers’ money was spent to import duty-free oil and then fix retail prices higher, way beyond what the struggling hustler can afford. Whereas the imported oil was meant to stabilize the local market, the opposite has happened and now Kenyans have been left to pay more for the imported oil as compared to what is locally available. Further, the importation was to cushion Kenyans against the skyrocketing cost of living but it now turns out that it is only benefiting only a few businessmen and top government officials, while Kenyans continue to suffer.
Investigations reveal that 125, 000 metric tons of edible oils were imported through the influence of CS Kuria, where KNTC management was allegedly forced to award tenders to single-sourced companies to import the oil and sell it back to KNTC.
Kenyans are now asking what the logic was behind KNTC awarding importation tenders to private companies to import and sell to Kenyans instead of importing or buying directly from manufacturers. Sources say CS Kuria and his inner circle bypassed the Kenya National Trading Corporation, which was tasked with overseeing the procurement, but allegedly dealt directly with manufacturers and the companies they handpicked to import the goods.
The investigating agencies are said to be keen on unearthing the whole scam and why the CS misused his powers and office to cut deals, failed to float competitive tenders, and also failed to invite local manufacturers to participate in the importation. Also under investigation are companies the CS handpicked to do the importation. One of the companies is Shehena Trading Commodity Limited, 100% owned by Invest Africa FZCO, a company registered in a Dubai-free zone. The Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Wilfred Saroni, is closely associated with Mr. Kuria.
Another company is Multi Commerce FZC, a company registered in a Dubai-free zone that is reportedly owned by a prominent businessman based in Eastleigh. According to sources, KNTC did not pay customs duty (35%), import declaration fees (3.5%), or the agricultural food authority levy (20%), resulting in a total tax loss of 42.5% to the government.
It has also been discovered that President William Ruto initially, through his initiative, negotiated a contract with the cooking oil manufacturers on the understanding that this would bring down the cost. However, the CS and two other top officers inflated the price by an average of $7 per litre, resulting in 125,000 metric tons of edible oil, which was part of a strategy to tame the high cost of basic commodities.
Sources have hinted to The Weekly Vision that President Ruto personally ordered speedy investigations to be concluded into the financial records of three senior-ranking government officials implicated in the loss of hundreds of millions of shillings through the inflation of the prices of imported edible oil.
The president is aware that Mr. Kuria is implicated in the scam but has decided to push for speedy investigations into the matter. Analysts now wonder if Kuria will survive the impending arrest should he be found culpable.