Senators investigating the controversial importation of edible oil worth Sh9.3 billion were this week shocked to find that the oil had disappeared from the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) warehouses.
The oil, which was procured by the KNTC under a Cabinet directive to stabilise the prices of essential food items, is suspected to be unfit for human consumption and has been condemned by health officials.
Senate committee members on Trade, Industrialization, and Tourism, led by Kajiado Senator Lenku ole Seki, had planned to visit 11 warehouses in Nairobi’s Industrial Area where the oil was allegedly kept but faced obstruction during their attempts to inspect the warehouses, marking the second instance of such interference.
The consignment, comprising 125,000 metric tonnes and jerricans, equating to 6,875,000 20-litre jerricans, was expected to be present.
However, upon opening one warehouse at the headquarters, only 466 jerricans were found, raising questions about discrepancies between figures provided by the Ministry of Trade and Investments and KNTC.
During a visit to KNTC headquarters, the acting managing director, claiming a lack of keys held by the arrested Managing Director Pamela Mutua, refused access to the senators.
The committee expressed frustration, announcing plans to summon suppliers for clarification.
Senator Lenku ole Seki, the committee chairman, criticized KNTC officials for their lack of cooperation.
Last week, Mutua told the senators that she had no authority to open the warehouses, which were under the custody of the suppliers.
The controversy dates back to last year when companies linked to the government were single-sourced to procure edible oils through KNTC, approved by the Cabinet.
Pamela Mutua, along with other top managers, was arrested over the edible oil saga.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has expanded its probe to include a local bank that guaranteed the Sh9 billion deal, questioning the procurement process of maize, rice, and sugar earlier in the year.
The investigation is set to involve other government entities, such as the Ministry of Investments, Trade and Investments, and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Questions arise over the handling of the Sh9 billion worth of edible oils allocated through a substantial budget last year.
KNTC began distributing cooking oil vending machines in impoverished neighborhoods, yet concerns persist regarding the importation process.
Former Trade, Investments, and Industry CS Moses Kuria defended the initiative as a measure to combat rising edible oil costs.
However, documents filed in the Senate reveal that KNTC single-sourced companies for the importation, setting higher prices than initially agreed upon.
Multi-Commerce FCZ secured an Sh8.12 billion tender for vegetable oil, and Shehena Company Limited was awarded Sh1.33 billion for supplying jerricans.
Discrepancies in shipping container quantities, as indicated by three different documents, are expected to be a focal point in the ongoing investigations.