KISUMU, KENYA: Deputy President William Ruto will chair a committee seeking to remove obstacles to the planned sale of five western Kenya-based sugar firms.
This is after out-of-court consultations between the Privatisation Commission (PC) and sugar stakeholders opposed the process – for flouting procedures – collapsed.
PC Executive Director Solomon Kitungu said the matter had been referred to the Inter-Governmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) chaired by the DP after stalling under Inter-Governmental Technical Relations Committee (IGTRC).
“Talks initiated by IGTRC (in September last year) were not fruitful, the matter was therefore referred to IBEC whose secretariat is organising a meeting to facilitate talks under their own frameworks,” said Kitungu.
He was responding to queries on why emergency talks initiated with the blessing of the Attorney General had whittled immediately the country was granted another two-year extension of the sugar safeguard by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) late last year.
He said the urgency to privatise the millers remained and would proceed if talks with the growing number of disgruntled stakeholders are fruitful.
“The extension (of the COMESA cushion) did not affect talks. The urgency remains. We need to mobilise resources to rehabilitate and modernise the factories before the end of extension period.
“Farmers need efficient factories and increased milling capacity now. Any time lost prior to stabilization of the factories is a lost opportunity for all stakeholders,” said Kitungu.
He pointed out that the Sh6 billion set aside to rehabilitate the millers and Sh39 billion needed to offset excess debts on the path to profiteering could not be released before the companies are privatised.
In September last year a 10-member inter-agency technical committee was formed to identify the main obstacles to the planned privatization of Nzoia, South Nyanza, Chemelil, Muhoroni and Miwani sugar companies.
The move came at a time when the country was making last-ditch efforts to beat the February 2017 deadline when a safeguard extension granted to Kenya in 2015 by Comesa to curb sugar imports expired.