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The government has intervened to save sugarcane farmers in Busia from losing millions of shillings to deadly predatory brokers who had taken over the business with the local miller Busia Sugar Industries (BSI).
The Busia Deputy County Commissioner Mr Douglas Kipchumba Rutto on Friday summoned the BSI management and the Western Development Initiative Association- (WEDIA) National Vice Chairman Joseph Barasa to iron out the issues which were threatening to ground the operations of BSI sugar factory at Busibwabo.
Barasa said: “ When I appeared before the Deputy Commissioner I stood my ground on all the critical explosive matters I had already raised in my letter to the BSI Managing Director Ali Taib and which was copied to Busia County Commissioner and Governor Sospeter Ojaamong.”
The other key personalities who were also petitioned on this matter were Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Mr. Kello Harsama the director Agriculture Food and Fisheries Authority (AFFA) which deals with sugarcane matters.
During the meeting the DCC said the government will protect farmers against brokers and emphasized that BSI must implement the directives by Hon Munya who had earlier ordered millers to buy a tonne at Kshs. 4040.
He also raised concerns as to why BSI had asked broker to write commitment letters to supply the Company sugarcane at Ksh3500 per tonne contrary to the orders given by the CS.
He said the move raises very critical question as to whether BSI will buy cane from Farmers at Kshs. 4040/= as ordered and leave the one from brokers to be supplied at Kshs. 3500 something he said would hurt the farmers even more.
The DCC whose area of jurisdiction Busia Sugar directly lies under, blamed the BSI management for using brokers to exploit and frustrate farmers.
He said: “The government through my office will do everything in its powers to save cane farmers from these predatory brokers who are profiting from the mess.”
The DCC said his office was already planning for a stakeholders meeting to discuss in detail the wide range of issues affecting the sugar industry to arrive at tangible solutions and conclusions to be executed that can salvage and benefit the local cane farmer.
A letter dated April 12, 2021 and signed by one of the brokers whose name we have withheld reads in part: “It is my decision to supply BSI mill cane at Kshs. 3500 and nobody has forced me to reach this decision.”
That figure is down from the Kshs. 3700 per tonne they were charging the miller after buying it from framers at throw away price of between Kshs. 1500 to 2500 per the same.
This came after BSI management summoned them (brokers) to discuss prices immediately after Cabinet Secretary Agriculture ordered new mill cane prices at Kshs. 4040 that is when they arrived at Kshs. 3500, from Kshs. 3700
Therefore there are remote chances for miller to comply with the above question since the BSI admitted that when it was hit by an excessive glut of sugarcane supplies for milling since last year they veered from their official cane harvesting contractual programmes to their farmers to adopt a willing seller – willing buyer arrangement.
What is clear is the fact that with the Kshs. 3500 brokers have entered with millers, they are already undercutting the government’s recommended prices.
“There have been challenges that is when we adopted this arrangement because apart from transport, it was also saving the costs on the raw material received from or suppliers under this arrangement,” said the BSI Public Relations Manager Stephen Mula
In a letter to the BSI CEO dated April 1st, from and signed by the WEDIA boss said: “We hereby kindly but firmly request you to stop doing business in the above mentioned manner when the sugarcane farmers who are supposed to supply you with cane are abandoned with their crop rotting on their farms.”
“It is our desire that you immediately address the plight of the sugarcane farmers contracted to supply the raw material to your company and stop buying it from the above mentioned sources. This state of affairs is making hundreds of farmers from Busia County to lose hundreds of millions of shillings every month which they had invested in the production of sugarcane to supply to your factory for processing.”
Mr. Barasa questioned why the BSI factory is buying the raw material from brokers and smuggling from Uganda at the colossal expense of local sugarcane farmers who championed for their factory to be constructed in Busia even as the company was facing relentless legal challenges.
He had warned: “Therefore vide this letter/notice two weeks’ notice to stop the above mentioned activities; otherwise we will be forced to immobilize the operations of your factory in protest of our losses as farmers.”
That is because as you purchase cane from the above mentioned sources, the farmers in Busia County are stranded with sugarcane that was harvested but never transported to your factory for processing, therefore turning it into firewood demanding the miller to compensate the sugarcane farmers for their lost millions.
The giant multi-million shillings western Kenya supermarket chain Khetias is committed to ensure that its customers get quality products and services despite challenges from suppliers.
There are also challenges to ensure that high quality services and goods are served to their customers which must be met on a daily basis all year around, but they beat them to keep ahead of competitors in the region.
The Operations manager Mr. Bernard Andera said: “We regret any shortfalls that some of our customers may have experienced while shopping in some of retail outlets based in the region because we are committed to ensure that our customers get high quality products and services compared to our competitors.”
This comes after recent reports indicated some irregularities in services and products from some of the branches which triggered public concerns but were verified to have originated from some of its supply chains and their packaging processes.
Mr. Andera said it was imperative for customers to get value for their money, their voices to be heard, their complaints and grievances addressed promptly to maintain an excellent customer relations and the chain to provide higher quality services in response to their needs.
“I therefore appeal to our esteemed Customers to contact the management whenever they are aggrieved so that their problems can be addressed without necessarily causing panic by running to the media since that would only but damage the good image of Khetias,” he said.
The Operations Manager said that indeed there were some issues such as a mix up in pricing which cannot be easily avoided but can be quickly rectified when brought to the attention of the management at whatever branch the customers may be shopping in the branches scattered all over the region.
He said: “ I want to urge our esteemed customers that they should be quick to seek help from any attendant. With such quick actions their needs shall be certified to the hilt and shortfalls corrected on the spot.”
On the critical question of expired foods, Mr. Andera said that such cases are isolated as the supermarket has always taken keen interest in selling to Customers fresh foods at all times.
That arose when some customers recently bought Vanilla Biscuits which had started molding a clear indication that they had expired, a matter which was brought to the attention of Angaza News that ran a story concerning that and other matters.
Following the publication, a spot check by Angaza News established that all the vanilla biscuits suspected to have gotten spoilt had been cleared from the shelves and replaced by fresh ones.
The chain supermarkets operations manager said: “Indeed we quickly contacted the supplier on the same matter to find out where the problem originated and it was discovered that there was a hitch in packaging of the biscuits where some were wrapped while still warm hence causing them to get spoilt so quickly.”
He said that considering the massive challenges facing the supermarket industry in the country the Khetia chain of supermarkets will continue working closely with the community to ensure that their total satisfaction was met across the board.
The chain is still performing superbly compared to the once traditional giants like Nakumatt, Tusskys, Uchumi that had had branches virtually in all corners of the country but have collapsed mainly to internal management challenges.
Their giant presence was once conspicuous in all corners of Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD) and strategically placed in every residential estate around and beyond the city but now they are quickly being replaced by the Quickmatt supermarket chain a recent entrant in the sector.
Across the western Kenya region the known players in the sector, perhaps to the scale of Khetias are Tessia, Frankmatt among others.
Started in 1982 as a small enterprise in Kitale, Khetias has over the years ballooned into a multi-million shillings entity that continues to spread across the region annually using more than Kshs.3 million to reward some of its ardent customers.
The giant headquartered in Kitale with branches in Bungoma, Kakamega, Eldoret, Busia, Webuye among a myriad of other towns in the region has massive regional operations that could equate the emerging Quickmatt, the grounded Tussky’s and Nakumatt in Nairobi.
The immediate former Principal of Nambale Boys High School in Busia County Solomon Sisuma over the years awarded himself lucrative tenders and grossly mismanaged the school’s funds turning it into a money minting entity to feed his greed for money.
It is now emerging that for the fifteen years he headed the institution he made millions of shillings through being the sole supplier of at least 100 bags of maize annually alongside other commodities such as sugar, beans and rice at highly inflated prices to feed the more than 1000 students at one of the leading high schools in Busia County.
“He is now pressuring the current principal Charles Hongo to allow him to continue supplying these commodities to the school so that he can make money as he was doing as the principal in total disregard of the laws ,” said an insider who requested not to be named.
According to the insider. Hongo has refused to comply with Sisuma’s demands after he was transferred to head Otieno Oyoo High School Hongo’s former school located in Nyando in Kisumu County in a cross transfer exchange that took place two years ago.
However when contacted on phone, Sisuma admitted that in his first year at the school in 2018, Hongo awarded him a tender to supply 100 bags of maize something that many would wonder why the duo decided to ignore the principals of ‘conflict of interest’ .
On his part Hongo was hesitant to either confirm or deny as to whether he indeed awarded his predecessor a tender to supply maize to Nambale High school but said that being new at the institution he couldn’t really tell whether the firm that he awarded the tender to supply maize belonged to Sisuma.
“I approached my friend and asked him that we do this business together something he agreed and went ahead to award me a tender to supply 100 bags of maize during the first year we swooped. Even him (Mr. Hongo) this is what he has been doing here at Otieno Oyoo High School”, said Sisuma.
These unfolding events begs the question as to whether the Ministry of Education is privy to what goes on in these institutions of learning as far as School Principals engaging in doing business with the schools they head is concerned and if the two Principals should be left to go Scot free given their confessions.
We sought to know from the CS for Education Professor George Magoha what his Ministry was doing to eradicate this habit that has now become the norm and he was quick to say, ” For as long as I am the CS for Education in this Republic of Kenya, I shall not allow School Principals to breach the laid down rules for their own selfish interests and on this one my Ministry shall investigate into the matter upon which I assure you that action shall be taken without fear or favour”.
The worst aspect of the whole mess is the fact that Sisuma is alleged to have colluded with contractors of his choice to embezzle the school’s funds especially whenever there were
construction activities at the institution.
“They formed a deadly conspiracy and relegated the Board of Management to the background as the Principal engaged in the malpractice without accountability but with total impunity;” said a long serving teacher at the institution.
The story does not stop there, since it is common knowledge all over the county that it’s during Sisuma’s tenure that examination cheating in all the papers of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations was rife year after year until after the then Cabinet Secretary for education Dr. Fred Matiang’i cracked the whip that cracked the syndicates backbone.
The teachers said that the situation got so bad that the government had to cancel the school’s examination results under Sisuma as a direct result for massive examination cheating presided over by the immediate former Principal Mr. Sisuma.
What many stakeholders including parents whose children were affected by the cancellation of exams are wondering is why the government and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) did not take any disciplinary action against the Principal but merely transferred him to another school where he is likely to continue with the same behavior or practices similar to those that he ruthlessly executed at Nambale High SchooL during his 15 years tenure as the head of the institution.
They are now demanding for an external forensic audit to be conducted at the institution covering all the years Sisuma has headed it to ensure that the monies lost are accounted for and legal action taken against him for all the wrongs he might have executed at the school.
Chaos and violence erupted in Lugulu area in Butula Sub-County that saw a whole Administration Police camp and a villager’s homestead torched and razed to the ground by irate boda boda operatives and villagers.
Members of Parliament from Busia County have come under intense fire for boycotting to attend the official commissioning of the first sugar or any kind of factory to be constructed in the county since independence by the Deputy President William Ruto.
The Western Development Initiative Association (WEDIA) accused the legislator for sabotaging development in their own home county that could salvage hundreds of thousands of local residents who are mired in extreme abject poverty.
The WEDIA chairman Joseph Barasa said: “These legislators are playing extremely petty party politics at the expense of the county’s development interests and the economic empowerment of the very people who voted them into parliament.”
The embattled London Distillers of Kenya has been ordered to immediately toe the line or face the music of distillery closure concerning the rampant environmental pollution that has been leveled at it by Erdemann Property Ltd.
The Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources ordered the LDK Chairman Mohan Golat and his company to ensure that each and every detail demanded by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), concerns raised by Erdemann Property Ltd and the residents were followed to the letter or face closure orders from the committee.
The fight for the Busia County’s gubernatorial seat has dramatically intensified piling massive heat on the incumbent Sospeter Ojaamong whose political future might easily be determined at the party nominations long before the ballot.
Though Ojaamong boasts of having amassed massive wealth over the last four years, to stand on his own, his fallout with Senator Amos Wako who financed his campaigns during the 2013 electioneering over his highly questionable style of leadership and bad resource management has rendered him vulnerable.