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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

 

Peas farmers have a reason to smile after EU lifts five-year ban

By BONIFACE MWANGI
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Farmers of peas, particularly those growing sugar snaps and mange tout varieties, now have a reason to smile, thanks to the lifting of the five-year ban by European Union (EU).

According to Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) managing director Esther Kimani, EU’s commission saw the determination farmers had in adhering to their standards and decided to lower the checking levels to five per cent.

“Farmers were able to learn fast and adhered to the requirements, a thing that forced the EU to drop its checking level of percentage from 10 to five per cent,” she says.

MRL REQUIREMENT

Following this amendment, Kenya’s produce will now be checked at the five per cent level.

In 2013, farmers of peas were not adhering to the EU market requirements by exceeding Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) on produce which was detected on entry to the EU markets.

“This forced EU to slap a ban on the two crops because of the failure by exporters to conform to the 10 per cent MRLs requirement,” Ms Kimani, told the Nation.

RIGHT CHEMICALS

She however noted that the county produce are still checked but randomly adding that farmers particularly small holder will not incur extra costs on their produce because of extended checks at the EU points of entry.

Ms Kimani says Horticulture Competent Authority, a committee chaired by Kephis and coordinated by the ministry of Agriculture managed to bring down the level of MRLs as well as sensitise farmers on importance of using the right chemicals and quantities.

She says Kephis continues to monitor farmers so that they don’t trip back.

SH100 BILLION

According to data from Kephis, the country has exported 9,969,351 pods of beans and 2,375,932 for peas between January and July this year.

EU is Kenya’s main market for flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs which translates to more than a Sh100 billion a year in foreign exchange.

Ms Kimani said that now farmers have a wide range of market opportunities.


Kebs staff face vetting in two weeks

By STELLA CHERONO
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The vetting of all Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) employees will begin in two weeks, as the government seeks to protect Kenyans from dangerous commodities infiltrating the market.

Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said the ministry will also restructure the agency and hire several employees to redefine conflicting roles and sack employees found to have abetted the circulation of counterfeit, contraband and substandard goods.

Mr Munya said the ministry will review the structure of regulatory agencies to ensure that they are efficient, and acknowledged that some are weak and need an overhaul of their technological and human resources to ensure that they function effectively.

CONSIGNMENTS

“We have discovered several weaknesses because some of the products that have passed through these institutions did not meet the required standards,” he

Speaking when he released the status update on sugar, edible oils, rice and fertiliser imports, Mr Munya said Kebs and the National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) will destroy all products that do not meet the quality standards.

“We are processing the immediate destruction of all the consignments of seized sugar that have failed the Kebs quality tests, at the owners’ cost,” Mr Munya said. But he denied that it contained mercury, lead, arsenic and copper.

AUTHORISATION

The Government has seized 397,000 bags of sugar, 484 containers of edible oils, and 361 containers of fertiliser that failed the Kebs tests.

“A total of 1,717,334 bags of sugar have been seized by the multi-agency team and a total of 354,628 bags met the standards,” he said, adding that the rest belonged to companies that had prior authorisation to import of sugar, with the clear intention of processing the sugar further.

“The sugar was seized either aboard trucks during transportation to factories or in premises where it was clear that it was not up for sale. In addition, the bags had labels warning that the sugar was not meant for direct consumption,” the CS said.

APPLICATIONS

He said 763 containers of edible oil had been seized from different points of entry, only 161 of which met the relevant standards. Another 118 containers are still undergoing tests, while 484 were rejected.

There also were plans to have Kebs and Public Health department test the sugar after reprocessing to confirm that the stipulated standards have been met before a firm is allowed to sell lit.

On fertilisers, the CS revealed that 361 containers of the 1,125 seized had failed the Kebs quality tests, while only 170 have been released to the owners. The rest are pending completion of tests.

To curb illegal imports, Kebs has come up with unique consignment reference numbers for importers, for which it has received 2,331 applications.


Nine ways the government can resolve debt level crisis in Kenya


Your dreams are valid and age is no barrier to fulfilling your ambition

The picture of Mzee Silas M’Rinyiru, 97, with other coffee growers on his farm in the Daily Nation of August 20, which reported that he had applied for a coffee milling licence in a bid to achieve his dream of processing his own coffee, is testimony that dreams are valid at whatever age. Examples abound of people who have defied the myth of age as a barrier to achieving one’s dream.

Many questioned whether the new Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, could govern at 92, but he has been serving the community and the nation well.

At 102, Agnes Zhelesnik was America’s oldest — and most adorable — schoolteacher. Affectionately referred to by her pre-primary and elementary school pupils as “Granny”, she has been teaching sewing and cooking at The Sundance School in New Jersey since she was 80.

At 91, Allan Stewart of New South Wales completed a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of New England. At 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to receive a college diploma. At 96, Harry Bernstein published his first book, The Invisible Wall, three years after his wife of 70 years, Ruby, died.

LIMITATION

At 97, Martin Miller was still working as a lobbyist for seniors. At 98, Beatrice Wood, a ceramicist, exhibited her latest work. At 99, Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mt Fuji. At 100, Frank Schearer seems to be the oldest active water skier. People do extraordinary things all the time.

“Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind,” said retired star athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Derek Liech, Mombasa.


EACC should focus on the counties as well

By MICHAEL MUGWANG’A
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The picture of President Uhuru Kenyatta walking with Archbishop (Rtd) Eliud Wabukala along the corridors of State House on Saturday confirms that the weak link in the fight against public looting has finally been fixed.

But even without getting into the details of the State House meeting between the President and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman, the recent brazen, and public, moves by the EACC against corruption suspects has left many a senior public official asking: Who will be next?

WON THE HEARTS

The arrests, which have been effected in collaboration with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), have, for good cause, won the hearts of the public. In the social media, the language of the users excited by the arrests and prosecution is “kamata kamata (apprehend them)”.

Jokes abound on the arrests, that the suspected ‘big fish’ are hiding away from their homes.

INTEGRITY CENTRE

Integrity Centre, the headquarters of EACC, has been a hive of activity, hosting high-ranking members of the society, including sitting and former governors, MPs and county government officials with many of them ending up being ‘guests of the State’.

The country was recently treated to footages and images of former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero’s arrest by EACC detectives from a high-end golf club. Dr Kidero, who spent two nights at Integrity Centre, and eight others face charges over Sh213,327,300 fraud in Nairobi County in 2014-2016.

FRAUDULENT DEALINGS

Dr Kidero’s public spectacle followed that of two of his former colleagues — Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and former Nyandarua boss Waithaka Mwangi — also facing charges of corruption. More are said to be on the EACC radar.

Sirisia MP John Waluke was also arrested over Sh297 million fraudulent maize dealings involving his company Erad and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The EACC has also arrested and charged in court Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama in connection with land fraud.

IRREGULARLY ACQUIRED

The latest high-profile individuals to fall under the EACC dragnet are the National Land Commission chairman, Dr Mohammed Swazuri, and Kenya Railways managing director Atanas Maina, who, with 10 others, have since been charged with paying Sh221 million for irregularly acquired land.

The recent case by the EACC to recover unexplained assets amounting to Sh600 million from a Kenya Revenue Authority employee is commendable.

With the new zeal in the fight against corruption, Kenyans expect more from the EACC.

SEEKING IMMUNITY

Wabukala should train his eyes particularly on the counties, where taxpayers’ money, in hundreds of billions of shillings, continues to be misappropriated with desperate governors publicly seeking immunity from prosecution.

Finally, it seems the remedy for the country’s hitherto incurable corruption malady could just lie in the archbishop’s divine connection — and the President’s assured support!


Questions in SBM’s buyout of Chase Bank that need answers

By PETER WARUTERE
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When SBM Bank opened its doors on Monday this week with Sh57 billion deposits hived off from Chase Bank, the depositors of the troubled Chase Bank could only afford a passive smile. Finally, there was a ray of hope that the tribulations they went through for 28 months since Central Bank of Kenya placed Chase in receivership in April 2016 would come to an end.

But there was suspicion and bitterness in equal measure, about how protracted the process of SBM taking over the viable business of Chase was, even when it appeared like the crisis was being resolved quickly. It had its twists and turns, starting with the controversy over justification in placing Chase in receivership to stem a run on deposits.

CORRECTIVE ACTION

But even after justifying its action, CBK remains culpable for contributory negligence: It should have nipped the crisis before the bank hit a cliff. Crises don’t just happen. Signs of distress appear long before the fall, giving ample time for corrective action.

The banking sector is heavily regulated. The CBK’s bank supervision arm should have assessed the root cause of the problem and resolved non-performing loans, insider lending and boardroom battles by Chase directors. It really shouldn’t have been caught napping when the directors staged an internal coup that broke the proverbial camel’s back, forcing one of the fastest-growing banks into the protective arms of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation.

SMALL DEPOSITORS

What followed was even more intriguing. With good intentions, presumably, CBK and KDIC brokered a deal with Kenya Commercial Bank that rescued Chase from plunging into the abyss. Chase resumed business within two weeks of its receivership and a depositor could access up to Sh1 million. Small depositors benefited from the deal but the large, mainly institutional, investors remained exposed and desperate.

CBK’s timeline was to have Chase out of receivership by March last year but goalposts shifted several times. Instead, CBK invited bids from investors to buy the bank and extended the receivership by six months. This was the beginning of another long process as depositors, unable to survive, fought to ward off creditors.

CHANGE TACK

CBK and KDIC were, in the meantime, engaged in court battles with Chase shareholders and directors whose assets were frozen over allegations of insider dealing and fraud.

What prompted the change of tack, very late in the day, was not convincingly explained. Depositors often claim that they were denied crucial information to which they were entitled.

A dozen investors expressed their interest but, when the bids were evaluated, only a few offers were considered viable.

The best bid was from SBM Holdings of Mauritius, through its subsidiary SBM Bank Kenya, while KCB dropped its interest on grounds of conflict of interest. As statutory manager, KCB had access to a lot of insider information that would have given it an undue advantage over its competitors.

INNOVATIVE APPROACH

When CBK and KDIC accepted SBM’s non-binding offer, the expectation was that all the pending processes would be expedited to have the suitor on board without further delay. That, again, didn’t happen and the six-month extension turned into another year of pain and sorrow for the depositors.

A firm offer was finally placed on the table in January this year but pending processes, including approvals from National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Communications Authority of Kenya derailed the takeover for another eight months. The rational expectation was that the authorities should have been ready to speed up the process.

Lessons from the Chase rescue plan will, no doubt, define how the authorities deal with banks in distress in future. The most important lesson is how CBK devised a proactive, innovative approach to resolve a major banking crisis.

UGLY ROADBLOCKS

However, depositors are more likely to remember the ugly roadblocks in their bid to recover their savings than the transformative process that turned SBM Kenya from a small outfit to one of the leading Kenyan banks overnight.

In the event of another crisis (hopefully there will be none), the public officials entrusted with resolving the problem should act in the public good. They should be conscious of the damage they cause — to depositors, the banking sector and the economy — by delaying critical decisions that can make or break the lives of innocent people.


Kenya to sign Sh380bn SGR deal next month

By KAZUNGU SAMUEL
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Kenya is expected to sign a Sh380 billion contract for the second phase of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in September.

Speaking in Mombasa, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the deal will be inked during this year’s Forum on China-Africa Corporation (FOCAC) that will be held from September 1-5 in China.

“We shall be travelling to China on the first week of September for the FOCAC summit and we shall sign the Sh380 billion contract for the second phase of the SGR from Naivasha to Kisumu,” Mr Macharia said.

SH800 BILLION

However, the CS did not name the financier of the second phase, only saying the project is a great opportunity for investors to build industries and houses along the corridor, beginning from Mombasa to Kisumu.

Speaking during the Architectural Association of Kenya annual convention at Pride Inn Hotel, the CS said the signing of the deal will put the cost of the complete project at Sh800 billion.

“The Mombasa-Nairobi phase cost Sh327 billion, the extension to Naivasha cost Sh150 billion and the final phase will cost Sh380 billion,” Mr Macharia said.

According to the government’s plan, phase 2B of the project will start at the planned Naivasha Industrial Park where Phase 2A ends.

INLAND PORT

It will pass through Narok, Bomet, Kericho counties and terminate in Kisumu where the government will put up a modern inland port.

The railway line will have 25 stations — a county station in Kisumu, six intermediate stations and 18 crossing stations.

“The key thing about SGR is that it is the main artery of Kenya’s key development corridor, which starts from Mombasa-Nairobi; what we call the Northern corridor.

THREE SEGMENTS

“From Nairobi, it goes to the West, and when you get to Naivasha, one branch (central line) goes through Eldoret and the other one goes to Kisumu (southern line),” he said.

A statement posted on the FOCAC website on August 1 said a contractor of the extended Nairobi-Naivasha SGR had already started laying tracks and rail sleepers as implementation of the mega project gathers steam.

The contractor — China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) — said the laying of tracks and rail sleepers is being carried out from Narok towards Nairobi.

The 120km Nairobi-Naivasha line is the first of the three segments that make up the second phase of the SGR project that ends in Malaba town located at the Kenya-Uganda border.

LONGEST TUNNEL

The site quoted Steve Zhao, the CCCC Kenya SGR project spokesman, saying the construction of the stations has been ongoing in Ongata Rongai, Ngong and Suswa towns. “We are on course to complete the 4.5km Ngong tunnel in August, the first and longest railway tunnel in the country,” he said.

Six per cent of the railway line will consist of three tunnels measuring 7.147km and it will have 27 bridges measuring 17.3km, account ing for 14.4 per cent of the total project length.


Bring on ‘Ingwe’, declare buoyant Gor after skinning Sofapaka

By GEORGE SAYAGIE
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SportPesa Premier League champions Gor Mahia made their intentions of retaining their title absolutely clear when they hammered hosts Sofapaka FC 3-0 in a mid-week clash at the Narok County Stadium on Wednesday.

The game started on cautious note with each team careful not to concede early.

Host Sofapaka had a chance to snatch lead in the 14th minute when Gor goalkeeper Fredrick Odhiambo brought down striker Ezekiel Okare in the box with referee Caroline Wanjala awarding Batoto ba Mungu a penalty.

But Odhiambo made amends by saving from striker Kephas Aswani.

COLLECTED LOOSE BALL

Gor took the lead on the stroke of half-time through Lawrence Juma who collected a loose ball after Sofapaka defenders failed to clear and unleashed a powerful shot into the net.

On resumption, Innocent Wafula inscribed his name in the score sheet when he converted a penalty after Sofapaka keeper Wycliffe Kasaya brought down striker Samuel Onyango in the box in the 64th minute.

Kasaya was sent off with Matthias Kigonya called between the sticks with striker Mico Justin the player sacrificed.

Seven minutes to full time, K’Ogalo launched another attack and with Onyango on target from Lawrence Juma’s assist.

TOP SCORER

Sofapaka coach, former Kenya international and league top scorer John Baraza conceded that they played badly and were affected by the sending off.

“We didn’t expect to lose this game, not until after my first-choice goalkeeper was red-carded,” said Baraza who rued the many missed chances in the first half, including the penalty.

“We had our best team but football is football, and with 44 points, we will still fight on and reduce the gap and at least finish at position two,” he added.

He said he would pick from the mistakes to prepare his team for this weekend’s game against Kariobangi Sharks at the same venue.

Gor Mahia coach Dylan Kerr said he fielded his best squad after a criticism by the club’s management after last weekend’s loss to Rwanda’s Rayon Sport in the Caf Confederation Cup.

“We did approach the Sofapaka match with a lot of caution, and I had a point to prove here, that we can do better and we will win games,” Kerr said.

“Now I want to see what kind of criticism the management will raise again,” added Kerr who said he is now ready for the “Mashemeji derby” against perennial arch-rivals AFC Leopards on Saturday in Nairobi.


Game hunting a bad idea

By EDITORIAL
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Wildlife occupies a special space in Kenya’s tourism industry and no effort should be spared to protect the animals.

Game safaris are a fascination with foreign tourists and rake in crucial foreign exchange.

Reports of a proposal to allow game hunting are appalling. It goes against what Kenyans has fought over the decades.

Sport hunting thrived in the 1970s but was stopped as it endangered the country’s famed game.

Matters became worse in the 1980s, when poachers entered the scene and raided the animal sanctuaries with wanton abandon.

That worsening situation compelled the government to create the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to manage the game resources and take away that responsibility from a department under the then-Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.

It took strong will, determination and serious commitment by KWS to fight the poachers and stabilise the wildlife numbers.

The events of that era are still clear in our minds and we would never want to get back to that morass.

Evidence demonstrates that Kenya’s game population is declining pretty fast and fighting poaching is a veritable challenge.

HUMAN-WILDLIFE CONFLICT

Environmental factors characterised by diminishing forest cover, coupled with the growing human population that precipitates frequent human-wildlife conflict over settlement space, have worsened the situation.

Faced with this grave situation, it would be ill-advised to allow a return to game hunting, either for the trophies or bush meat. That will deal a terrible blow to wildlife conservation.

Some neighbouring countries and in southern Africa allow game hunting and it has worked for them to attract more tourists.

But southern Africa, for example, has high wild animal numbers.

Whatever the motivation, the new proposal cannot be justified.


Don’t allow impunity to kill Kenyan sports

By EDITORIAL
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Reports of financial impropriety in Kenyan sport have emerged yet again.

The latest Auditor-General’s report reveals that Sh1.7 billion of the Sh3.5 billion allocated to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) 2017 World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi is missing with fingers pointing towards irregular procurement of services for the week-long global event.

Two years ago, a government-appointed committee investigating irregularities in the financing of Kenya’s participation in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

After interviewing close to 80 athletes, officials and digesting various contracts and payments, the Rio Olympics Probe Committee presented its findings on October 28, 2016.

Key was the fact that Sh88,611,480 was lost through fraudulent purchase of air tickets for Team Kenya with several government officials implicated in the scandal.

ATHLETES’ UNIFORMS

Theft of athletes’ uniforms was also uncovered and arrests made but, sadly, there have been no convictions despite assurances from the Executive that those found guilty would face the full force of the law.

This even after the Director of Public Prosecution reported that several State officials had cases to answer and that, indeed, public money was stolen.

Previous experience has proven that such investigations could be acts of incorrigible window-dressing.

This circus makes a mockery of efforts to develop Kenyan sport, which boasts huge potential that is, shamelessly, continuously nipped in the bud by officials serially dipping their fingers into the cookie jar.

LACK OF SERIOUSNESS

It’s not lost on us that Kenya has twice failed to host key continental football competitions — the Africa Cup of Nations in 1996 and the African Nations Championships (Chan) last year, both due to lack of seriousness on the part of our sports managers.

Despite the lack of confidence in the government’s prosecutorial muscle, there is renewed hope that the indefatigable double-team of DPP Noordin Haji and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti will revisit the Rio scandal and effectively deal with the latest World U-18 heist. We also note that Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee is seized of the matter.

Meanwhile, the government has proposed that tax revenues from sports betting firms be channelled to financing the country’s sports programmes through the National Sports Fund.

But given the rampant theft of the sports vote from the Exchequer, how sure are we that this proposal isn’t merely the creation of another cash cow?

Nairobi has been picked by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to host the 2020 IAAF World Under-20 Championships; can we be sure that taxpayers’ money will be safe?

The DPP, DCI, PAC and Judiciary must move with speed to rein in the culprits to give Kenyans faith that sports is in safe hands.