Members of the cashew nut board, the country’s umbrella organization for the development and marketing the crop, are said to have spent some sh2 billion in allowances instead of developing the sector, Parliament heard yesterday.
Available records show that the board received Sh 2 billion in the form of Export Levy between October of last year and January, this year. This was money meant for developing the sector, but the board is said to have ‘fraudulently’ spent it on hefty sitting allowances instead – at a time when cashew nut growers got raw deals from commercial buyers who shunned buying the crop, citing low demand at the global market.
Presenting opposition views on the financial estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives earlier tabled in Parliament by the Minister, Christopher Chiza, Shadow Minister Rose Kamili said while cashew nuts growing struggled to find markets for their produce, the board members indulged themselves in fruitless meetings that attracted hefty allowances – instead of spending time finding ways to resolve those problems.
According to the opposition spokesperson, the board members who also doubled as members of an Investment and Employment Committee met on November 29th, 2011 at which they were paid hefty allowances.
Citing examples, Hon Kamili said a board member named Jerome Bwanausi received a total of Sh 1,550,000 from the single meeting, out which some Sh 750,000 was paid out as Per Diem and Sh 800,000 as sitting allowance.
The board chairperson, Anna Abdallah, received a total of Sh 1,800,000; broken down into Sh 500,000 as sitting allowance, Sh 300,000 transport allowance, Sh 900,000 Per Diem and Sh 100,000 as local transport.
According to Kamili, Jerome Bwanausi appeared to have received another Sh 1,550,000 from the same meeting, broken down as follows: Sh 400,000 as sitting allowance, Sh 300,000 for an air ticket, Sh 750,000 as Per Diem and Sh 100,000 for local transport. The opposition spokesperson also said Mudhihir M. Mudhihir, a former deputy minister now sitting on the board, was also paid Sh 1,550,000 – also broken down as in the case of Bwanausi.
But his wife, Mrs Mudhihir M. Mudhihir, is also said to have received Sh 875,000 after the meeting. The breakdown shows that she got Sh 200,000 as sitting allowance, Sh 300,000 as transport allowance and Sh 375,000 as Per Diem.
The grand total comes to a whopping Sh 7,325,000 shared between just five board members – and from a single meeting.
Kamili lamented that there was also apparent fraud on top of the hefty allowances, citing the case of Jerome Bwanasi who got paid twice, each time signing different forms – within two days in succession: November 28, 2011 and November 29, 2011.
On November 28, 2011 Bwanausi wrote down his name as J. Bwanausi while on the form he signed on November 29, 2011 he spelled out the whole name as Jerome Bwanausi.
The opposition camp wanted the government to explain why such rates of allowances were paid – and why under such suspicious environment.
However, the minister (Chiza) allayed fears of poor crop marketing – but he still faces Parliament over those hanging question today when he winds up debate for his budget.