Senators want privatisation of state sugar millers halted - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Senators want privatisation of state sugar millers halted


Senators want the planned leasing of cash-strapped state sugar factories halted until thorough public participation is undertaken to iron out fears surrounding the move.

The lawmakers say the privatisation is being driven by a clique of ‘tenderpreneurs’ who are only interested in the multi-million assets owned by the firms and not in reviving them to benefit farmers.

“If you look at Nzoia Sugar Company, the target is the 30,000 acres of the nucleus estate land. They are not interested in the factory; they just want the land,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula said.

While seeking a statement from a House committee on the planned leasing of the firms, Wetang'ula claimed a plan has been hatched to lease all the companies to one person.

“If you go to Muhoroni, Chemelil, Sony and Miwani sugar companies, it is the land,” he said.

The government has earmarked five financially stressed companies for privatisation. They are Muhoroni, Nzoia, Chemelil, Miwani and Sony.

Agriculture CS Peter Munya announced a waiver of Sh62.5 billion debts owed by the five sugar millers on July 3 to set the stage for their revival.

In the second step, the government said it would lease out the debt-free sugar millers to private investors to turn them around.

On July 10, the Agriculture and Food Authority invited interested local and international investors familiar with the industry to submit expressions of interest.

But the lawmakers lamented that planned leasing is pushed without proper engagement of farmers, local communities and county assemblies from the sugar belt region as well as Parliament.

“With the intended leasing of sugarcane factories, it is important that Parliament, which represents the people, be brought into the full attention on the details of this sale,” Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said.

“We know this is an arranged programme. This is not different from what was done to the Kenya Co-operative Creameries (KCC). These are old known games. They will undervalue. In fact, the interest is not even in the factories but the nucleus of those factories.”

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said the common mwananchi in Western region has not been consulted. There has not been any public participation as pertains to leasing of the sugar factories, he said.

“We shall be demanding thorough public participation. We want the farmers to take part in the negotiations and in this deal. We want thorough valuation reports to be tabled before the Committee on Agriculture,” he said.

“The people who want to buy the sugar factories are not interested in the plant. They are interested with the non-core assets. Mumias Sugar Company has stadiums, buildings here in Nairobi, land and five schools”.

“If you ask our county assemblies who are in the sugar belt regions they will tell you that they have not even seen an iota of any proposal that has been put before the governors,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said.

In the statement sought by Wetang'ula, he demanded full disclosure of the state-owned sugar companies the government plans to lease out and the criteria used to identify them.

The legislator also demands to know if any public participation was undertaken, including consultations with farmers, factory workers, cane cutters, relevant local leadership, MCAs, MPs and senators of the relevant catchment areas.

“ Explain in detail the role played by the Privatisation Commission, the statutory body mandated to deal with issues of privatisation of public institutions and table their recommendations, if any, in this regard,” he said.

Wetang'ula also wants to know why the government has taken the decision to lease the factories against the long-publicised policy of engaging strategic investors and partners with shareholding percentage insulated for farmers, workers and other local stakeholders.

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