Imported edible oil was unfit for humans – Kebs probe deepens

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023 02:35 | By
KEBS declares Imported edible oil unfit for consumption. PHOTO/Print
KEBS declares Imported edible oil unfit for consumption. PHOTO/Print

The imported edible oil at the centre of a storm over its quality was only fit for the production of animal feeds, not for human consumption, according to findings by a State agency.

The cooking oil, which was imported from Malaysia ostensibly to address a shortage that had sparked a sharp increase in retail prices, lacked many ingredients to be suitable for human consumption.
This is according to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), which subjected the cargo to Kenya Standardisation Specification for Fortified Edible Oils and Fats.

According to a well-informed source, the best quality of cooking oil comes from Indonesia.
Cooking oil can be added just like soybean oil or corn oil to rations for added fat and dust control to feed cattle. Pig feed also contains 10 per cent sunflower meal, which has oil.

A report by KEBS states that the batch imported from Malaysia did not conform to the required specifications of Vitamin A and insoluble impurities, hence raising questions about its quality and suitability for human consumption.

“For fat content, the oils were far above the required amount by 0.47 per cent by mass — containing 99.97 instead of the mandatory 99.5,” states the report.

In terms of the acidity content, potassium hydroxide in milligrams was 0.12 as opposed to 0.6. The oil contained only 5.42 of peroxide per kilogramme of oil, as opposed to the mandatory 10 required for oxidation. Its moisture was of extremely high volumes. The agency further established that the oil contained 0.04 of insoluble impurities while the required standard is 0.05.

“Going by these findings it was easy to conclude that the oils were only fit for animals,” said the source who asked not to be named because he is not authoritied to address the media on the matter but who is familiar with the investigations.

Following the findings, KEBS wrote to the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), which was the agency tasked by the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Investments to coordinate the process, notifying that the consignments had been condemned.

The suppliers were thus asked to ship the consignment back to the point of origin within 30 days from September 5, the date when the letter was signed.

“Failure to comply with the orders will cause the products to be destroyed at the importer’s cost,” warns the letter.

Company directors

Attempts by senators to inspect the consignment have been blocked by KNTC officials who have on two occasions refused to open the warehouses.

President William Ruto reportedly ordered investigations after realising that the prices he had helped to negotiate with the manufacturer were inflated by at least seven dollars per litre.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has since taken over the matter and last week questioned top managers at KNTC. Managers of the bank which was used in the transactions were also questions.

Besides DCI, the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) is involved in parallel investigations and has written to KNTC Managing Director Pamela Mutua asking for crucial documents on the oil importation deal.

Both DCI and EACC are also planning to question the directors of the companies that supplied the oil. The companies, suspected to be owned by people with close links to government officials, were single-sourced to procure the edible oil. One of the companies is owned by the brother of a senior State official.

Last week, DCI wrote to the Registrar of Companies requesting information relating to three of the companies that imported the oil.

“This office is investigating a case involving procurement irregularities whereby the companies featured. To facilitate our investigations, kindly but urgently furnish us with the requested information,” reads the letter that named Multi Commerce FZC, Charma Holding Limited and Shehena Commodity Trading Limited as the companies of interest.

Fertiler imports

In the letter, Zachary Kariuki of DCI’s Operations Support Unit, asked the registrar to provide among other documents, particulars of the directors. These should include the names, nationalities and ID/passport numbers of the directors.

Other documents required are certified copies of the Certificate of Incorporation and Articles of Association, the current status and history of the companies, including details of current, and previous directors and name change (if any).

The registrar has also been asked to provide the physical and postal addresses of the companies and other relevant information.

A source close to the investigation said the registrar has since provided the information and the directors are likely to be summoned for questioning.

The DCI has also requested similar documents of companies used to import fertiliser and rice four months ago. They are Makram Imports and Exports, Multi Commerce FZC and Standard Petroleum LLC. Others are Purma Holding Limited, Evertec General Trading Limited and Lone Trading FCZ.

Senators have also said they will be summoning the suppliers to shed light on matters that have come up.  Members of the Senate Committee on Trade, Industrialisation and Tourism have said they will now target the suppliers whom they said are key to their investigations.

“We want the suppliers to shed light on whether they inflated prices as alleged,” said Kiambu Senator Karungo wa Thang’wa, a member of the committee.

The Cabinet had approved a framework to position KNTC as the anchor of State initiatives to create a price stabiliser for essential household food items.

KNTC was expected to leverage on its infrastructure and capacity to stabilise price swings of essential items in public interest.

However, KNTC single-sourced the companies contracted to import the 125,000 metric tonnes of edible oil and set higher prices as opposed to what had been agreed on initially during the negotiation stage.

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