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How State officers released impure oil

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Kinyua, Munya influenced release of dangerous edible oils, letters show

  • Wilfred Ayaga 04th Oct 2019 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua Joseph Kinyua at the Kasarani Sports Complex, Nairobi, ahead of the swearing-in of President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta. [Elvis Ogina.Standard]

Two senior State officers pushed for the release of sub-standard edible oil into the market, documents have revealed. The documents presented before the National Assembly Trade committee show that Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua (pictured) and Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya separately authorised the release of the oil. The two wrote letters asking the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) to release the consignment, which had either excessive or low quantities of vitamin A. High quantities of the mineral, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), can lead to birth defects in babies if consumed by pregnant women, and in some cases, death.

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Green light The first letter from Kinyua (pictured) dated July 18, 2019 reads: “The purpose of this letter is to request you to clear this consignment of 58 containers of edible oils. You may liaise with other state agencies involved with a view to ease the financial burden of the trader.” The communication was copied to Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Managing Director Daniel Manduku.

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The second letter from Mr Munya giving the green light for the release of the oil is dated August 1, 2019. It reads: “The purpose of this letter is to notify you that the Cabinet Secretary had granted approval for a waiver on the enforcement of the fortification of edible oils … the enclosed waiver is only applicable to shipments of edible oils already imported into the county and lying at various points of entry.”

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Although Kebs insisted that the oil was released after samples showed it was safe, the agency's own records contradict this position. The records show the oil contained excessive amounts of Vitamin A. Laboratory test reports laid before the committee showed one of the samples imported from Malaysia had a Vitamin A quantity of 69.2mg/kg, against the acceptable standard of 20-40mg/kg. Last week, Wanyama Musiambo, the chairman of a multi-agency team tasked with controlling the proliferation of illicit goods, said his team was not consulted before the oil was released. The team comprises Kebs, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) among other State agencies.

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No pressure Kebs Managing Director Bernard Njiraini denied that he was pressured to release the oil. "I'm not acting under any pressure. I am only protecting the interests of Kenyans," Mr Njiraini said. The Ministry of Health has declined a suggestion to manually add Vitamin A to the oil with low quantities, citing public health concerns. The ministry said the oil had been brought into the county on the understanding that it met all health requirements. A letter from Kepha Ombacho, the director of public health, said fortifying the oil would be a violation of public health standards, and explained sub-standard products are usually destroyed.

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