Lesiyampe charged over maize scam

Agriculture Principal secretary Richard Lesiyampe yesterday denied irregularly purchasing maize worth Sh5.6 billion, at  a Nairobi court.

He is accused of  authorising the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to irregularly buy the maize.

Lesiyampe was charged alongside former NCPB managing director Newton Terer and finance general manager Cornel Kiprotich.

Anti-Corruption Court principal magistrate Felix Kombo released each of the three on a Sh6 million personal bond and a surety of a similar amount or an alternative cash bail of Sh3 million.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission detectives arrested the trio following a directive by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji. They are accused of exceeding NCPB budget for the purchase of maize by Sh5.6 billion in the 2017/18 financial year.

“Upon investigations, it was established that NCPB spent Sh11,365,879,918 thereby exceeding the Sh6 billion budget,” Haji said in a statement.

Lesiyampe is on the spot for allegedly authorising the irregular expenditure under the Strategic Food Reserve Fund.

Terer and Kiprotich are accused of wilful failure to comply with the laws relating to the management of public funds. Besides breaching the grain intake regulations, the two are also accused of neglecting duty by failing to put in place mechanisms to ensure NCPB bought maize from vetted and registered farmers.

Lawyer Paul Nyamondi, for the accused, requested for lenient bond terms, saying his clients had cooperated with the investigators and were not flight risk.

But the magistrate directed the three to deposit their passports in court. Lesiyampe was barred from  accessing his office unless he obtains a clearance from EACC.

The three were also prohibited from making contact with any persons listed as a witness in the case.

The court further issued summons against 13 NCPB officials to present themselves to EACC offices in Eldoret. They are expected to plead to charges today.

Lesiyampe’s case will be mentioned on September 20.

Earlier in Eldoret yesterday,  EACC sleuths arrested  seven people over the NCPB maize purchase scam.

EACC deputy director in charge of North Rift region Jackson Mue said nine more people were lined up for arrest.

Those arrested are  (NCPB  weighbridge clerk Virginia Wamaitha, Soy assistant chief David Barngetuny, Joseph Kipruto (Uasin Gishu county Agriculture director), Renson Korir ( former manager of Eldoret NCPB Silo) and prominent farmers, Eric Tallam, Paul Maru  and Peter Chirchir.

The assistant chief was part of a vetting committee that approved the list of farmers to deliver their produce.

The seven were arrested in their homes in a dramatic operation early morning.

Drama ensued when Kipruto collapsed when he learnt of his imminent arrest and was admitted to a private hospital.

“We have deployed our officers to guard him at the hospital,” said Mue.

He said they had intensified the search for nine suspects who went into hiding to avoid arrest. They include maize traders who supplied to various NCPB silos and paid millions of shillings at the expense of registered farmers.

“We are preparing charge sheets to facilitate the arraignment of suspects already in our custody,” he said.

A team of EACC detectives have been camping in North Rift following claims that hundreds of bags of maize smuggled from neighbouring countries have found their way to various NCPB depots.

Reporting by Bernice Mbugua, Winstone Chiseremi and Irene Githinji

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