Kebs Under Scrutiny As Condemned Sugar Disappears

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) faced criticism for its failure to monitor one million kilograms of condemned sugar that disappeared earlier this year. Acting Managing Director Esther Ngari appeared before the National Assembly’s Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives Committee to address the issue. Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo questioned why Kebs had not installed CCTV cameras at the Thika warehouse to monitor the sugar. Ngari admitted that the CCTVs should have been installed before the consignment left Mombasa but were not.

Ngari also stated that she was unaware of the whistleblower who alerted authorities about the missing sugar. Approximately 20,000 bags of sugar, each weighing 50kg, vanished. Committee chair James Gakuya inquired whether the whistleblower was a Kebs employee or an outsider. Ngari replied that she did not know the whistleblower and reiterated that the warehouse had been sealed, according to a Kebs officer.

Gakuya argued that witnessing the sealing of the warehouse was insufficient. He questioned why there were no personnel on the ground to monitor the sugar and why CCTVs were not installed. Gakuya expressed dissatisfaction with Kebs’ claim that it was unable to conduct surveillance.

The committee criticized Kebs for shifting responsibility to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). They emphasized that Kebs was supposed to oversee the conversion of the sugar to ethanol in collaboration with the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

The committee decided to summon Peter Mwangi, who confirmed receiving the consignment at the warehouse. They aimed to question Mwangi about the point at which the sugar disappeared. Kebs had previously blamed KRA for the sugar’s disappearance, stating that it was under the taxman’s supervision at the Vinepack Industries warehouse in Thika.

Ngari informed the committee that Kebs had initiated a countrywide market surveillance operation to remove contaminated sugar from the market after learning of its disappearance. However, the committee questioned whether Kebs had adequately verified that the sugar had reached Thika and why the missing sugar was only reported in 2023 despite being condemned in 2018. They also sought information on the measures being taken to recover the sugar.


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