Kenyans groping in the dark over sugar safety

The apparent failure by Parliament to decisively and conclusively address the unsettling sugar saga is a serious indictment of the august House.

In their defence, the MPs might argue that it was a parliamentary sub-committee that failed to tell Kenyans who was behind importation of the bad sugar, or whether the sugar on the shelves is safe for human consumption, but there is no doubt that the buck stops with the legislators on this matter.

More pointedly, it did not disclose whether the claims by Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, that imported sugar contained mercury, lead and copper, bore any truth.

It is unacceptable that almost four weeks after the ‘revelations’ were made, Kenyans are no near to the truth than they were when the saga started.

On the face of the Kieni MP Kanini Kega-led committee report, it is apt to ask whether we have reached the end of the matter, or if indeed the committee lacked the capacity to execute the task of telling Kenyans the truth behind the sugar saga.

As a country, we put this matter squarely at the feet of our legislators because a lot of money was spent in their quest to unravel the mystery of the importation of sugar deemed unfit for human consumption.

If there was an element of rent seeking in the entire process, as asserted by MPs during debate on the report, Kenyans need to know which legislators are selling their birthright for thirty pieces of silver. It is distressing to consumers that even at the moment, no shopper is sure the sugar they pick from the shelves, or indeed from the village provision stores, is safe.

When MPs, whose mandate and province is to play an oversight role in public affairs of this country, fail in their duty, to whom does Wanjiku turn? Who will watch the watchdog?

None other than National Assembly Speaker Justin Mutiri described the committee report as shoddy, which means it did not pass muster. He must ensure this matter does not rest in its present state and that he will take it up and show direction.

The truth should be known, however long it takes.

It is not enough to gloss over a matter that affects the lives and safety of millions, who pay the taxes that the MPs draw salaries from.

Indeed, the Senate too should ensure it does not sit back as Kenyans are treated to a charade over such a serious issue.

It is important that we get to the bottom of the matter, and that agencies entrusted with the task of gatekeeping, especially at the ports and border points, protect consumers from such imports in future.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards, for one, should not say it is not aware how such commodities got into the shelves before testing.

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