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Monday, 13 June 2011

Accountability Fears in Makueni The Anchor May- June 2011

Accountability fears as relief
food supplies resume in Makueni

 By Daniel Kituku

Government resumes relief food supply to over 24,000 starving residents in Makueni district after withdrawal of the food early this year over allegations of  abuse of the food by area  provincial administration.

 Makueni district commissioner Mr. Ochilo Oyugi confirmed  receiving this month’s food ration of 1000 bags of maize, 280 bags of beans and 252 carton of cooking oil for the hunger stricken families.

Chairing a stormy District Steering Group [DSG] committee meeting in his board-room, the DC denied that his office had abused the food prompting to cut off the food supply by the government in February this year.

 However Mr. Oyugi did not disclose the reason for the withdraw of the food “I received communication of the food cancellation from manager of National Cereal and Produce Board [NCPB] Wote de-pot and I have since then been following up the matter for resumption of the food” the DC told DSG meeting.

 The cancellation of the food was not communicated to DSG committee since no meeting has been held since February this year. “I could not convene the DSG meeting since there was no food and I only convene meetings when there is agenda” the DC said.

His remarks stunned those attending the meeting as one o it’s roles is to assess the food situation in the district and advise the government accordingly.  His assertion, wrong as it may be, is indeed a confirmation that the DSG may be headed in the wrong direction.

 He went on to offer a bizarre explanation to a starving community: “Properly the food supply might have been cut off at the arrival of March-May rain season in march” the DC told the meeting as the members demanded explanation over the food cancellation.

“It is hardly imaginable that the commencement of rains can be an answer to the urgent need for food for Makueni people and there is need to have an explanation why Makueni went without food rations even as residents face famine”, said nominated Councillor Peter Mwanthi from Kalawa, whose area is usually facing a food deficit.

 The meeting questioned why some bags were under weight forcing civic leaders to return the bags weighing up to 50kg in-stead of 90kg to NCPB depot, an indication that some powerful thieving hands are defining the supply chain.

 The manager NCPB Wote depot Mr. Peter Njeru confirmed of an incident where he replaced the underweight bags after Wote Town Ward Councillor Joseph Musau returned the bags.

 The committee at the same time demanded that secondary school account for the relief food allocated to them in January this year in terms of food for fees as bursary to poor and needy students in respective schools. The area district Education Officer Mr. John Ndundu was asked to give a report back over the same in next DSG meeting.

 The committee members expressed concern over lack of accountability of the food allocated to needy schools re-questing reduction of ration allocated to schools and increase of the food supply to members of public. If is feared that corrupt administration officials are conniving with Principals to channel relief food in fees deals and follow up to get money in lieu.

 Mr. Ochilo refuted reports appearing in one of daily papers last, week alleging the he was allocating the food without consulting DSG. However he did not respond to allegation of taking Sh 10,000 from secondary school principals in exchange of food allocated to them as claimed in the daily paper.

 ”I allocate the food to schools after I get list of needy schools from the district education office and then communicate to principals to pick their allocations” the DC told the DSG. He did not indicate what criteria the DEO uses to identify food needy schools as that ability is clearly out of an education officer’s competence.

 The District Education Officer told the meeting that no follow up is made by his office after the food is issued to the schools to quantify the food into fees for bursary to poor and needy students- indicating that there exists a great opportunity for abuse of the process

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