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Kenya's finance minister should be investigated, says report

The East African nation is in the middle of an unprecedented campaign against what the government calls illicit goods, to help the local manufacturing sector.


Reuters Last Updated at 02 Aug 2018, 17:08 IST Kenya

Kenya's finance minister and a cabinet colleague should be investigated over the way they handled sugar imports, a joint report by two parliamentary committees submitted to parliament late on Wednesday said.

The East African nation is in the middle of an unprecedented campaign against what the government calls illicit goods, to help the local manufacturing sector.

The report by parliament's agriculture and trade and industries committees said Finance Minister Henry Rotich and Adan Mohamed, who is now East African Community minister but was previously minister for Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives should be investigated over the sugar imports last year.

The report said Rotich had authorized imports that led to a market oversupply of more than 450,000 tonnes of sugar.

It said Mohamed had failed to supervise the country's standards agency, which falls under the ministry he ran, leading to imports of sugar that were not safe for human consumption.

Rotich did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment. Mohamed said he had not seen the report and would comment once he had seen it.

Parliament has to vote on the recommendations of the two committees before the report takes effect. It has not said when the vote will take place.

Kenya consumes 870,000 tonnes of sugar each year but domestic production has slumped due to high costs, old and inefficient sugar-crushing machinery, and mismanagement and theft of farmers' funds.

Local production was nearly 380,000 tonnes of sugar last year, a 41 percent drop from about 638,000 tonnes a year earlier, largely as a result of a severe drought in the first quarter of 2017, according to government data.

Any shortfall is usually filled by duty-free imports from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Executives in the sugar industry say the import permits are usually handed out to well-connected individuals in an opaque process that distorts the market and puts local producers at a disadvantage.

The parliamentary report also recommended that former Agriculture Minister Willy Bett be investigated to find why he allowed 14 companies to import the duty-free sugar.

Bett, who was appointed an ambassador to India earlier this year, was not immediately available for comment.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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