Kenyans might have consumed poisonous sugar

Thursday, June 6th, 2024 03:00 | By
Fake sugar impounded at Vinepack Limited Godown in Thika. PHOTO/ PRINT.

Kenyans consumed poisonous sugar following the disappearance of 20,000 bags from a warehouse in Thika, a Parliamentary Committee has revealed.

In a report tabled in the National Assembly, MPs who sit in the departmental committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives said that there was no proof of final distillation of the sugar that was released to Vinepack Limited in Makongeni, Thika which was to convert the condemned sugar into Ethanol.

Reads the report: “That considering that there was no proof that the final distillation of the sugar that was released to Vinepack Limited and having proof from the stakeholders that the sugar went missing, it is the finding of the committee that the condemned sugar was irregularly and unlawfully released to the market for consumption by unsuspecting innocent Kenyans.”

It adds: “The committee further observed that the process leading to the release of the condemned sugar to Vinepack Ltd was illegal, irregular and the due process was not followed because the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) did not follow the laid done procurement process, leading to awarding of tender to a company which was not licensed to deliver services procured.”

Released to Vinepack

The lawmakers said that it is evident that despite the sugar being released to Vinepack Limited for purposes of conversion to industrial use, it was never converted to its final intended purposes.

Reads the report: “It was the submission of all the stakeholders who appeared before the committee that the sugar that was released to Vinepack Ltd for conversion went missing under unclear circumstances and the same was disposed of in a manner that was approved by the commissioner General of Kenya Revenue Authority.”

The committee’s decision comes after 27 government officials attached to various State agencies were suspended from office last year over the the disappearance of the condemned sugar.

The officials who were sent home to pave way for investigations are attached to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), KRA, National Police Service (NPS) and Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA).

The suspended officials from Kebs included the Managing Director Lt Col (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini, Dr Geoffrey Muriira (Director of Quality Assurance and Inspection), Hilda Keror (Manager Inspection, Mombasa Port Office), Liston Lagat (Assistant Manager, ICDN Nairobi), Stephen Owuor (Principal Officer) and Peter Olima Joseph (Inspector, Mombasa).

Those affected in KRA include Joseph Kaguru, Mwanja Masinde, Stephen Muiruri, Moses Okoth, Doris Mutembei, Chacha Hondo, Carol Nyagechi and Derick Kago.

Others are Joseph Maita Mweni (Port Health), Isacko Bonai (NEMA), Stephen Cheruiyot (Anti-Counterfeit Agency), Daniel Ngugi (KEPHIS), Willy Koskei (EACC), and Edwin Ruto (KPA).

Oversee destruction

The MPs have further fingered the Multi-Agency Team (MAT) that had been set up to oversee the destruction of the sugar for neglecting its duties.

They cited the entire team including National Environment Authority (NEMA) and Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) as being the most responsible as they had a supervisory role to the final distillation process.

Reads the report: “The team was to exercise a supervisory role of the process of conversion upto the final distillation of the condemned sugar. However, it is important to note that during the meeting held on 12th April 2023, there was a resolution that NEMA, AFA were to supervise the actual distillation of the industrial ethanol as per the Attorney General advice.”

Following the move, the committee wants the Inspector General of Police and Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate the conduct of KRA commissioner for intelligence, strategic operations, investigations and enforcement Faith Kiara that led to the loss of the condemned sugar and recommend requisite legal action to be taken against her.

Kiara, the committee said, is the one who issued the orders to have the sugar that was initially stored at Vinepack Limited but later moved to Kings Commodities due to storage challenges to be released.

The MPs however took issue with Kiara whom they accused of issuing a release letter to a company that did not possess a valid license to convert sugar into ethanol through distillation process.

Vinepack was to distill the ethanol and had been slapped with a Ksh20 million tax demand for the sugar, against the Sh4 million they paid. The firm had no license to distil the industrial ethanol.

Reads the report: “That Faith Kiara having been adversely mentioned in the submissions by various stakeholders during the hearing, the committee recommends that the Inspector General and the Director of Criminal Investigations investigate the conduct of MS Faith Kiara leading to the loss of the condemned sugar and recommend legal action.”

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