In Summary
  • Parliament must thoroughly scrutinise the May 2017 Kenya Gazette notice that opened the floodgates for the importing of dirty Brazilian sugar.
  • Again, duty-free imports under the East African Customs Act 2014 cannot be done for profit.

  • Parliament should investigate why the law was breached to allow merchants to make billions from selling dirty sugar to consumers.

It is good to see Parliament taking the sugar matter seriously.

In an unprecedented move, the House rejected a report by its own sub-committee on the sugar scandal for failing to meet transparency and accountability standards.

It seems that Parliament is setting a ‘new normal’ insofar as parliamentary oversight of decisions by the Executive is concerned.

I will attempt to set the agenda for the investigation Parliament is about to launch on the sugar scam. Here are the pertinent issues and questions the second parliamentary investigations on the matter must deal with.

First, Parliament must thoroughly scrutinise the May 2017 Kenya Gazette notice that opened the floodgates for the importing of dirty Brazilian sugar.

SUGAR IMPORTS

That is where the rain started beating us.

The MPs must ask why a free-for-all regime was introduced despite the entity which regulates and licenses sugar imports — the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) — having just announced its own programme for imports of clean sugar from the Comesa regional bloc, of which Kenya is among the 19 members.

The second issue which parliament must deal with as they scrutinise this gazette notice is the manner in which this announcement handled duty-free imports of milk that was announced concurrently in the very same publication.

In the case of milk, the notice clearly spelt out the quantities of powdered milk that would be allowed to be imported on a duty-free basis.

Furthermore, the notice clearly stated that importers of the duty-free milk had to seek approval of the regulator of that sector — namely, the Kenya Dairy Board — before bringing it into the country.

DURY FREE IMPORTS

Why is it that the gazette notice treated duty-free imports of milk differently from that of sugar?

Parliament should investigate and make a finding as to why the provisions of the Crops Act 2013 were breached. That piece of legislation says that all dealers in scheduled crops — of which sugar is one — must be licensed under this Act. When you don’t issue licences, how would you know or regulate quantities coming into the country? How do you assess the impact of the imports on local production of that product?

And, while still on the issue of compliance with the law, Parliament should investigate and make a finding on whether that gazette notice complied with the provisions of the East African Customs Management Act 2014.

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