Wednesday, April 4, 2012
We condemn in the strongest terms possible the reported corrupt interference by a senior politician, and a leading presidential candidate, in the ongoing process to award a sugar miller’s licence to investors who have applied to build the much craved after and long overdue sugar factory in Busia County.
Four investors applied last year and were duly appraised, strictly on merit, by an evaluation team composed of experts from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Kenya Sugar Board (KSB). The experts approved two applicants and disqualified two. Later, a fifth investor applied but did he not qualify.
On September 22, 2011, the then KSB Acting Managing Director, Mr. Solomon Odera, forwarded a copy of the appraisal report to Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Dr. Romano Kiome, seeking his consideration and direction on the applications to set up a sugar factory in Nambale, Busia County. (Please see attached documents for details.)
We were therefore very disturbed when some conscientious staff members at the KSB recently complained to us that the Board is corruptly being prevailed upon to award the miller’s licence in Busia County to one of the disqualified applicants. According to the KSB staff, a leading presidential candidate, who has been paid tens of millions of shillings by one of the disqualified applicants, has prevailed on the management of the KSB, and the Board will issue the licence shortly to the incompetent applicant.
This is a very grave matter. Kenya’s once promising but now disgusting sugar industry, which is kept alive artificially by being protected from competition by more efficient producers in the COMESA region and internationally, was brought to its knees by such corruption.
Not only are Kenyan consumers of sugar paying dearly for the corruption whenever they buy a grossly overpriced product, the abominably underpaid sugarcane farmers have been left with very little to show for their labours as co-investors in the sugar industry, and the country has been denied its full potential for economic development and growth in this vital sector.
The only way forward for Kenya’s sugar industry is to establish modern and competitive sugar factories. There should be no room for obsolete machinery and technologies such as the ones corruption seeks to impose on Kenyans, yet again, through the Busia Sugar Project.
At the very minimum, the sugar factory to be built in Busia should be the most modern in Kenya, given it is coming at a time when the country is well informed of both the great challenges in the industry and the immense technological capabilities available to overcome and turn the odds into great opportunities.
Therefore, we demand that the said top politician, and other barons of corruption at the KSB, whom we won’t name today, should allow experts to do their work professionally. That includes conducting the exercise through an open tender, and not through in-house applications as seems to be happening.
We and other right thinking Kenyans will settle for nothing but an open and competitive process that will ensure we get the best investor. An investor who will bring in new equipment and modern technologies that will make sugar production competitive enough in line with the COMESA and world market demands for high efficiency, and the production of multiple products and not just sugar from sugarcane.
To progress, Kenya must stop being a society that punishes merit and ability to reward corruption and incompetence. Hence, we also demand that the Ethics and Anticorruption Commission and the Public Procurement Authority intervene immediately to prevent this unfolding scam. The two Government agencies, and other law enforcement and related authorities, should do their work and ensure that due process is followed to ensure Kenyans get full value for their resources in Busia and elsewhere, and that the culprits are ferreted out and duly punished according to the law.
Okiya Omtatah Okoiti
Kenyans for Justice & Development (KEJUDE) Trust