Behind the sweet sugar from Muhoroni Sugar Company is a bitter lot of sugarcane farmers swindled out of their earnings by a clique of cartels led by general manager, Nashon Osieko, inside sources have revealed.
The vice is so deep-rooted that even exposés by media do not deter the cartels, accused of stealing from the company and the farmers in broad daylight.
According to sources, the cartels constitute the largest number of ‘suppliers’ who allegedly supply nothing but benefit from what genuine farmers supply. Some of the suppliers are ghost farmers instituted by top management, who are the biggest beneficiaries.
It is alleged that the managers connive with the rogue ‘farmers’ to slash a chunk of what the genuine farmers supply and share the benefits at the expense of the farmers.
At other times, the management colludes with ‘tycoons’ to get soft loans in return for ‘committed sugar’ at low prices. In repaying the loans through ‘committed sugar’, the cartels get a loophole to sneak out tonnes of sugar that is sold never to benefit the company, nor the farmers.
Recently, after numerous media exposés, the company did a reshuffle only to hoodwink the public, with little or no effect at all.
From insider sources, Kahawa Tungu has learnt that through the reshuffles, the cartels position their men strategically to every tender evaluation committee to serve the interests of the looters by approving the predetermined outcome.
In one of the reshuffles, Osieko made an attempt to position his people in the Agriculture section, a move that was later reversed by the receiver manager Francis Ooko.
He however was able to make some changes, placing his trusted men strategically. The employees who were appointed to the various positions are the same ones farmers and workers union complained about.
Also, Osieko is accused of trading with Muhoroni through a proxy cleaning company and now fronting for a second company to be awarded the lagoon desludging tender, believed to have overpowered the technical receiver manager.
At one point, Ooko seemingly admitted that the rot exists as quoted by a local daily saying that, “to some extent, some of these (underhand deals) are true and some are not true.”
Osieko enjoys the backing of the factory manager Walter Odum, who can literally threaten and intimidate his juniors to toe his corrupt way or lose their jobs or promotion.
“Odum and his team that comprises of technicians and operators drawn from across the factory, procurement and finance departments, have always had their way,” says our source who sought anonymity.
Through Odum, the company has experienced numerous artificially instigated breakdowns, the most recent being of an employee who cut the fuel pipe of the standby generator. The generator is set to ensure that in the event of a power outage.
Such breakdowns are set to make the factory stop production and hence a major breakdown and purchases shall be encountered to ‘restore’ production. During these kind of breakdowns, the suppliers are predetermined and single sourced non-competitively.
The appointment of Francis Ooko as the receiver manager seemed as a glimpse of hope but no sooner had he arrived than he was absorbed into the cartel. He was appointed from Sony Sugar, where he was a ‘junior’ employee.
Our sources intimate that Ooko has been bought with rewards of LPOs to his preferred suppliers and promotions, of course with kickbacks.
As if that is not enough, Odum made sure that Ooko appointed his crony, Gideon Angura to the position of position engineer. According to sources, Angura does not have the relevant experience to be elevated to such a position.
“In Muhoroni sugar, the factory workers’ appraisal is done in a very unprofessional manner that does not depend on merit or performance. This has seen many staff members rise above their qualified and well trained counterparts,” says our source.
Following the debacle, the company in May last year shut down for six weeks after running out of crop and struggling to pay taxes and debts for months now. The company has been tax evading by failing to remit its taxes and that of its employees to the revenue authorities.
Farmers have been avoiding supplying the company with sugarcane, following accrued arrears amounting to millions for the farmers. The millers are reeling in a more than Ksh100 billion debt, most of it owed to farmers.
This is a similar case with most state-owned sugar millers, which has led to a row with farmers who want sugarcane zoning.
With the liberalization of cane sourcing, most public sugar millers like Muhoroni have been left stranded, with no stable supply of sugarcane hence threatening its existence.
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