Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
The government intends to hand over functions of the scandal-riddled National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to the counties to cushion it from financial mismanagement of funds.
Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri says part of the reforms, expected to help to weed out cartels who manipulate officials, will include separating commercial and social functions of the board and establishment of a commodity exchange market (COMEX).
The CS, who was appearing before a senate committee investigating the maize crisis in Kenya, said the commodity exchange market would enhance price discovery as well as create a fair price where no one can influence the amount of money expected.“Ministry of Trade is in the process of developing a framework for the commodity exchange,” he added.
Kiunjuri said the government expects the planned decentralisation of the board’s responsibilities and authority to the regions would streamline services to farmers at the lower level.
The decision to restructure the board comes on the heels of recommendations from audit firm Ernst & Young that was assigned scrutinise the board’s books of account. In the report, the audit firm recommended the separation of the board from commercial and social functions as well as decentralisation of the board’s functions to lower levels.
“The government is in the process of transforming NCPB as advised by Ernst & Young in their consultancy report. The major recommendation was separating commercial and social functions of NCPB,” Kiunjuri said. He made the revelations after members of the Senate ad-hoc committee led by the chairperson Margaret Kamar demanded to know the actions the government is taking to restructure the board.
According to the senators, the board has failed farmers who it is supposed to buy maize from as up to now it has not been able to pay them. They proposed that the functions of the board be decentralised to the counties for effective delivery.