Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga with officials of Kiru Tea Factory from Muranga County at his Capitol Hill offices. PHOTO/COURTESY
By OUR CORRESPONDENT
A special audit should be carried out at Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) following allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the agency opposition leader Raila Odinga has said.
He called on the DCI to urgently investigate allegations of corruption at KTDA.
“The DCI needs to take interest of farmers and safeguard their interests at the KTDA,” he said.
Mr Odinga also asked Parliament to come up with legislation to end monopoly in the management and development of the tea sector.
The former prime minister who spoke at his Capitol Hill offices on Wednesday after meeting directors from Kiru Tea Factory from Muranga County.
“I have been informed that due to mismanagement in the tea industry, many farmers are uprooting the crop across the country. This is how the collapse of the coffee sector started,” he said
Mr Odinga accused the current KTDA board of running down the sector and asked courts play their role and help farmers.
He called for an urgent forensic audit at the KTDA board which he said has clinged to power since the year 2000 despite mismanaging the industry.
“We risk losing the country’s top foreign exchange earner unless urgent action is taken to overhaul the KTDA leadership,” he added.
Mr Odinga said KTDA has lost touch with farmers and has instead set farmers on the path of hopelessness.
“Tea is auctioned at Sh80 per kilo but farmers are paid Sh18 per kilo and this is affecting their lifeline,” he added.
He said Kenya loses at least 100 million kilograms of tea to hawking each year in a clear manifestation of “something wrong with KTDA.”
Regarding audit, he said, “There is a need for a forensic audit on the financial management of KTDA, its group of companies and all 67 KTDA managed tea factories. Currently, KTDA is not supervised or regulated like banks, insurances or cooperatives. This must be addressed”.
Mr Odinga said all measures should be taken to protect the tea sector from collapse as it happened to the coffee and sugar sectors.
The former premier noted that the price gap has given rise to briefcase buyers, which is an indication that the system is broken.
“These buyers approach the farmers directly because they know the farmers are broke and have lost faith in the auction system. It has also given rise to hawking of tea. Hawking of tea is illegal,” he said.
Mr Odinga called on the ministry of agriculture to embark on deliberate steps to remove cartels from the tea sector through greater transparency in the selling of tea and payment of farmers.
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