The arrest of Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe, former NCPB Managing Director Newton Terer and Former General Manager of Finance Cornel Kiprotich over the loss of money meant to pay farmers is the first signal that NCPB will not continue to be the playground of maize barons.
The officials were arrested after months of outcry by farmers who had delivered maize to the National cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) but were not paid. Instead, it was paid to select barons.
On Thursday, the court released the accused on Sh3 million cash bail each on seven counts relating to loss of millions of shillings at the cereals board, as the maize scandal started eating its first victims.
The court also granted them the alternative to pay a personal bond of Sh6 million and avail surety of similar amount.
The accused have also been ordered to surrender their passports and not to contact witnesses.
The three were arraigned before the Anti Corruption Court magistrate Francis Kombo and denied the charges.
They have been accused alongside 13 other people who include chiefs and traders who colluded to buy thousands of bags of maize fraudulently.
Other suspects who are yet to be presented before the court are Caroline Kipchoge Cherono, NCPB Eldoret Silo Manager Renson Kibet Korir, Records Officer Eldoret depot Erick Kipketer Talam and County Director in charge of Agriculture Joseph Kipruto Cheboi.
Also to face charges are Virginia Wamaitha, Willie Kipkoech, Celestine Chepchirchir, Victoria Jebet, Paul Kipyego, Caroline Chepchumba, Peter Chirchir and David Barangetuny.
They face charges of conspiracy to commit an offence of economic crime, willful failure to comply with the law relating to the management of public property, unauthorised spending of public funds, conspiracy to defraud, abuse of office and neglect of duty.
They are also accused of fraudulent acquisition of public property through the irregular supply of and purchase of maize to the NCPB in Eldoret which led to the loss of public funds.
The accused persons allegedly exceeded the Sh6 billion budgetary allocation to purchase two million bags of maize in the 2017/18 financial year.
According to the DPP Noordin Haji, the officials approved the purchase of maize worth Sh11.4 billion which was mostly delivered by traders thereby denying genuine farmers access to the funds.
Dr Lesiyampe is said to have authorised the purchase by National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), the custodian of the country’s strategic grain reserve.
NCPB bought the maize on behalf of the Strategic Food Reserve Oversight Board (SFROB) for two years from October 16, 2016.
“Upon investigations, it was established that NCPB spent Sh11,365,879,918 thereby exceeding the Sh6 billion budgeted for,” Mr Haji said in a statement.
“The SFROB had budgeted to purchase 2 million bags of maize for financial year 2017/18 at Sh6 billion. This expenditure was not budgeted for contrary to the law.”
This expenditure, Mr Haji said, failed to ensure that the purchase of maize was done in accordance with the law.
The suspects will be charged with willful failure to comply with law relating to management of public property, unauthorised spending of public funds, conspiracy to defraud, abuse of office and neglect of official duty.
“The Managing Director NCPB willfully failed to ensure that the procurement of maize was done in accordance with the law,” the DPP said.