Written by Wanyonyi Wa Wasike
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The closed milk diary [PHOTO|Wanyonyi Wa Wasike|Westf Fm.]
IN what appears to be a well-woven plot of graft, junior officers and a civic leader at the Bungoma Municipal Council have secretly sold off land belonging to a farmers’ owned milk processing plant within Bungoma town.
Fury greeted revelations confirm that the piece of land on which the stalled Kitinda Milk Processing Co-operative Society stands has been sold off to a private developer who has since commenced plans to secure the plot.
The whistle-blower was another employee of the council, who after allegedly disagreeing with the rest on how the loot was to be shared out decided to spill the beans.
Shockingly, the government had allocated a total of Ksh.100 million towards the revival of the machines at the firm with an earlier announcement by Trade Minister Moses Wetang’ula that the funds were to be used to repair the rugged machines to enable full operations by October this year.
Following the new developments, the government allocation is set to be re-diverted as the milk firm has been left with worn-out machines in bad shape and with no land to stand on.
Investigations by West Fm established that two junior employees at the council connived with a rogue civic leader to sell off the land estimated at Ksh.100 million for only Ksh.3 million.
The revelations, made after a council meeting at the civic authority has sparked fury with residents demanding for immediate investigations and arrest of the culprits involved in the scam.
“It’s shocking to discover that such a scandal happened when the government was in the final process of reviving the milk plant. This is farmers’ property and we want quick answers to the puzzle and prosecution of all those involved,” demanded Andrew Maniafu of the “Katiba La Jukwaa” lobby group.
He revealed the suspects involved are now living large and driving top-of-the-range cars after stealing Kitinda Dairy documents that were under the jurisdiction of the municipality.
Further investigations by West Fm found out before the illegal transaction took place, the Bungoma Municipal Council set the ball rolling by advertising the sale of the land over claims that the management of Kitinda Dairy had failed to remit taxes to the municipality, thereby accruing millions of shillings in unpaid rates to the council.
The officers then seized the opportunity to look for prospective buyers and managed to get an unsuspecting one to whom they transferred the plant’s ownership documents for a song.
Police have requested those with information on how the stalled milk firm’s land illegally changed hands to record statements with them in order for the law enforcers to have a more concrete ground to make arrests and take the culprits to court for the crimes.
“We are currently following bits of information over the matter but I am appealing to those who may have more details of what actually transpired to come forward and share the information with us, of course with a strict promise for confidentiality,” assured Bungoma District Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) Zabed Maina.
He added that the police were also following other leads at the municipal council to ascertain how a computer containing vital information, chief among them the financial status of Kitinda Dairy Factory was hacked into and important chips taken away on the eve of the official reading of the council’s 2012-2013 financial budget.
The incident last week caused confusion at the civic authority forcing Finance Committee Chairman Councilor Joseph Maguda to read to the public a hastily prepared financial budget that was latter swiftly rejected by Mayor Patrick Sulechi as lacking substance.
“We are demanding for speedy and full investigations into the incident because it is apparent that some staff are heel bent on covering up their past financial mal-practices that have seen the council loss millions of shillings.
This time round, we want the police to leave no stone unturned to ensure that all the culprits are arrested and charged,” Sulechi told West Fm on phone.
The Mayor said that this was the third time in two years that computers containing vital financial documents have either been stolen or hacked into and announced that all staff at the council will this time round be subjected to intense investigations.
Kitinda Dairy Milk Factory that had employed about 650 staff collapsed under a burden of debts way back in the early 90s and efforts by farmers and local leaders to revive it had over the years been unsuccessful.
Late last year, Prime-Minister Raila Odinga announced in Bungoma that the government is set to finally revive the plant to serve the more than 70,000 residents dealing in dairy farming in the County.
Last month, Kanduyi Mp Alfred Khang’ati who is also an Assistant Minister in the Office of the Prime-Minister announced that the government was in the process of appointing a Receiver-Manager who was to be tasked with heading a team that was to oversee the final revival of the milk processing plant before the end of the year.
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