Morning newspapers summary

Daily Nation

How crooks looted NCPB at the expense of farmers

Details of how distribution of government subsidised fertiliser and payment for maize supplies by farmers to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) were compromised by well-connected individuals can now be revealed.

Investigations by the Nation have exposed how unscrupulous middlemen and dishonest Ministry of Agriculture staff were involved in hoarding subsidised fertiliser and frustrating farmers’ efforts to get payment for maize supplied to the NCPB.

The revelations come in the wake of alleged theft of subsidised fertiliser worth Sh6.3 billion as well as the latest maize scandal in the ministry.

Newton Terer has already resigned as NCPB managing director, but he is on the spot since the theft happened under his watch.

The Nation has established the cartels exploited loopholes in vetting channels to access government-subsidised fertiliser, and the soft under-belly of the ministry to frustrate farmers.

First, they compromised vetting committees charged with identifying genuine farmers to enable them to buy the input at a subsidised price of Sh1,500 from the NCPB stores.

The cartels further worked with brokers to repackage the fertiliser for sale to desperate farmers at between Sh2,000 and Sh3,000 per 50kg bag at retail markets.

The move led to a shortage of the fertiliser in NCPB stores, forcing farmers to buy the input from the retailers at higher prices.

It also led to exclusion of many small-scale farmers from the low-cost inputs.

US Muslim inmates fed pork during Ramadhan: activists

A federal judge granted a restraining order Thursday forcing prison guards in Alaska to stop giving Muslim inmates pork as they break their fasts during Ramadhan, rights campaigners said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday claiming Anchorage Correctional Complex had violated constitutional prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

CAIR said the US District Court for Alaska had granted its request for an emergency temporary order requiring guards to provide adequate meals in accordance with government health guidelines.

“CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president,” the Washington-based organisation said in a statement.

Muslims are currently marking the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn until sunset, which means going without food for around 18 hours in Anchorage.

EACC officers raid ex-KPC director Tanui’s home

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) officials on Thursday raided the home of former Kenya Pipeline Corporation Managing Director Charles Tanui in connection to a Sh647 million Hydrant Pit Valves investigation.

The EACC sleuths sought to establish the role of Mr Tanui in the loss of the money through a scheme that awarded them to select briefcase companies.

Detectives analysed documents and laptops in the house of Mr Tanui who was the Company’s boss in 2014, when the tenders were purportedly awarded.
The detectives then proceeded to raid other officials’ homes and offices, collecting documents they believe will support the investigations that come four years later.

EACC Chief Executive Officer Halakhe Waqo said in a statement that the commission is conducting investigations into allegations of corruption in the award of tender No SU/QT/3264F/14 by the Kenya Pipeline Company Limited for the supply of Hydrant Pit Valves complete with isolation valves and two year operational spares at a cost of $6,408,491.89 (Sh647,257,680.89).

“We conducted a search at the residence and offices of the public officials of the company who handled the procurement at the time,” Mr Waqo said, adding that the officers retrieved several documents and records that are crucial to the investigations.

The Standard

Now eyes on Uhuru as mega corruption scandals pile up

Reports of multi-billion shilling corruption scandals that could undermine the Jubilee administration’s four pillars of growth have turned the spotlight on President Uhuru Kenyatta. The latest resurgence of theft at the National Youth Service (NYS) and the fraudulent payments for maize supplied to the National Cereals and Produce Board come as his administration is working to lay the ground for affordable housing, manufacturing, universal healthcare and food security that the President hopes will shape his legacy.
However, in the early months of his second and final term in office, the scandals, which have sowed public discontent, have threaten to erode goodwill as well as scare away potential investors and donors.
Significantly, the fraud schemes have exploded months after similar unresolved scandals such as the Sh1.9 billion NYS scandal that rocked his first term and for which most suspects walked scot free, and the procurement malpractices that exploded at Afya House that were estimated to cost Sh5 billion. Another subject under parliamentary investigation is the risk of the State pension fund losing Sh6.8 billion through inflated costs for the construction of Hazina Towers, the Sh55.6 billion irregular tendering for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s new terminal through the Kenya Airports Authority, the Sh8 billion Karen land grab and the single sourced Sh15 billion police CCTV system.   In the case of the Afya House scam, although the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) rushed to collect files, two years later investigations have not been concluded.
Trump cancels summit with North Korea scheduled for next month
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its nuclear test site. Referring to a scheduled June 12 meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump said in a letter to the North Korean leader: “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long- planned meeting.”
Trump called it “a missed opportunity” and said someday he still hoped to meet Kim.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korea repeated a threat to pull out of the unprecedented summit with Trump next month and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary. In a statement released by North Korean media, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui had called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy” for comparing North Korea – a “nuclear weapons state” – to Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi gave up his unfinished nuclear development program, only to be later killed by NATO-backed fighters. A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday, which Pyongyang says is proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.
MPs want ‘powerful’ names behind maize scam revealed

At least Sh3 billion in fraudulent payments have been flagged in an audit following complaints by farmers that influential traders had hijacked maize supplies to the national stores. This includes Sh1.1 billion claimed by 18 traders who failed a vetting process but who have already been paid Sh768 million, according to a preliminary report by the Ministry of Agriculture
However, members of the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday dismissed the list of 18 names, arguing the traders were merely a front for powerful figures on the back of reports that a top aide of a senior politician, four MPs and top Government officials were behind the scam.
In total, the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) reported that it had received maize worth Sh8.7 billion during the suspect period, of which Sh5.2 billion had been paid out. However, the MPs alleged a cover-up, saying the matter pointed to fraud and without thorough investigations, there was no telling whether all the maize to be paid for was supplied or some payments were for fictitious deliveries.

The Star

NYS arrests next week as Kinoti reviews evidence

DPP Noordin Haji and DCI boss George Kinoti yesterday met to review statements recorded by 40 individuals suspected to have been involved in the latest NYS scandal.

The two officers met at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters along Kiambu Road where they scrutinised evidence gathered by detectives.

Sources said arrests could be made as soon as next week. The scrutiny of statements and evidence is expected to continue today.

Also present was state prosecutor Duncan Ondimu.

Sources told the Star the scrutiny was aimed at identifying strong leads for detectives to put up a strong case.

“We have decided to do a prosecution-led investigation where all loopholes are detected and sealed in good time,” said a source who requested anonymity. Among the suspects under probe are PS Lilian Mbogo and NYS director general Richard Ndumbai. Both Mbogo and Ndubai have since stepped aside to pay way for the probe.

The decision to change strategy was prompted by release of 23 suspects in the Sh791 million NYS scandal of 2015.

The court said there was inadequate evidence. The suspects were charged with economic crimes in which the government lost Sh47 million at the National Youth Service.

North Korea ready to talk ‘at any time’ with Donald Trump

North Korea has said it is still willing to talk “at any time in any form” after US President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled his meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Vice-foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan said Trump’s decision was “extremely regrettable”.

President Trump blamed the North’s “open hostility” for the cancellation.

The summit would have been the first time a sitting US president had met a North Korean leader.

The details of the meeting in Singapore on 12 June were unclear. But talks would have focused on ways of denuclearising the Korean peninsula and reducing tensions.

Trump announced the cancellation in the form of a letter personally addressed to Kim.

A senior administration official in the US later gave further details, saying North Korea had shown “a profound lack of good faith”.

There were a series of “broken promises” from Pyongyang, the official told reporters, including when the White House sent the deputy chief of staff to Singapore to meet North Korean diplomats ahead of the summit.

Distribution of textbooks halted due to heavy rains

Three million textbooks are stuck in publishing houses after distribution was halted due to heavy rain. The books were bought by the government under the textbook distribution policy and are to be distributed by publishers.

At least 34 million books are to be distributed to schools before next month when phase one of the exercise ends.

Speaking to the Star yesterday, Kenya Publishers Association chairman Lawrence Njagi said parts of Rift Valley and northern Kenya were the most affected.

He said 28 million textbooks have been published.

“The rains have caused logistical challenges. Roads have been cut-off ,” Njagi said.

The publishers had contracted the Postal Corporation of Kenya to deliver the books to primary and secondary schools.

The first phase consisted of sciences, mathematics and languages. Textbooks for social sciences and religious education will be published in the second phase. “Publishing is ongoing after the second phase was commissioned a week ago,’’ Njagi said.

The books are for students in primary and secondary schools.

Business Daily

NCPB paid Sh1bn to illegal maize traders

The National Cereals and Produce Board’s (NCPB) has paid 18 maize merchants, who failed its vetting, a total of Sh1.05 billion, Parliament heard Thursday.

Preliminary findings of an internal audit that was conducted on the purchase of maize to replenish the  Strategic Food Reserves indicates that eight traders out of the 18 pocketed a total of Sh607.8 million.

The eight traders supplied 427,784 bags of 50kg maize to NCPB’s Eldoret depot and have so far been paid Sh607.8 million, leaving a balance of Sh265 million.

The list of traders, who failed the vetting test but went ahead to supply maize includes Celestine Chepchirchir who was paid Sh333 million, Alice Wanjiku Githaiga (Sh46.8 million) and Paul Kibichy Bieogo (Sh18 million).

The list of suppliers also includes Stephen Kiprob Tanui (not paid), John Tanui Kosgei (Sh10.2 million), Anthony Kipng’etich Chebii (Sh12.2 million, David Kimutai Cherop (Sh14.3 million) and Paul Kipyego Marus (Sh24.9 million).

Miraa traders demand release of Sh2 billion

Miraa traders in Meru County have given Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri a 14-day notice to release Sh2.2 billion allocated to revive the sector failure to which they will go back to court.

Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita), through Mwenda Kaumbuthu & Advocates, said since they withdrew a case in November 2017 with the promise that the money would be released, nothing has been done.

Addressing journalists at Meru Slopes Hotel yesterday, Nyamita chairman Kimathi Munjuri accused the county government of abandoning them after they withdrew the case.

“We don’t know that is happening and nobody is listening to us. We even fear that the money has been misappropriated just like it happened with the National Youth Service (NYS) billions,” he said.

“Our demands are clear that we want the money released and the report implemented. Although we had reservations on how the report was compiled, we agreed to support it in principle,” he said, adding that the association will mobilise its members to demonstrate on Monday to press for release of the funds.

Sh4bn sweet potato factory set for Migori

A Sh4 billion sweet potato processing plant is set to be built in Migori  before the end of the year, signalling good news to farmers who have often complained of exploitation by middlemen.

Speaking Thursday in Kuria during the inspection of the five-acre parcel of land where the plant will be situated, Devolution principal secretary Nelson Marwa said the plant, which will be set up in Getonganya in Mabera sub-county, is meant to address the plight of farmers through value addition .

“The Ministry of Devolution is planning to set up a sweet potato processing plant here. The plant will address the plight of farmers who have been exploited heavily by middlemen who buy their produce at low costs,” Mr Marwa said.

“Some of the products the plant will be processing from the sweet potatoes include crisps, flour and biscuits. This will give the farmers value for their crop.”

The PS said this would be a part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, which include food security, improve manufacturing, universal healthcare and better housing.

“The project aims at realising two of the Big Four agenda; that is manufacturing and enhancing food security. It will also offer job opportunities for the young people and also open up the region for more investment,” Mr Marwa added.

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