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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 3 May 2015

CONFUSION DOGS NEW NZOIA CHAIRMAN



President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appointment of Joash Wamang’oli as the chairman of Nzoia Sugar Company has caused uproar in the Western Kenya sugar sector that has increasingly fallen prey to unscrupulous managers and the sugar cartels over the last five years.
Wamang’oli, a former MP of Webuye constituency, who lost his seat in the 1992 general elections, is the former chairman of Nzoia Outgrowers Company Ltd where he allegedly presided over wholesale plunder of company resources in unprecedented proportions.
Documents in our possession show that during his tenure as Noco chairman and board member, the former MP allegedly presided over naked misappropriation of resources that led to the near collapse of the institution and impoverishing farmers, opening the way for newcomers West Kenya Sugar and Butali Sugar that have become thorns in the flesh of Nzoia Sugar and neighbouring Mumias Sugar Company.
The naked plunder of Noco is explained in an audit report handed to the Kenya Sugar Board (now known as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority, then chaired by Solomon Odera) in 2011. It must be pointed out that Odera ordered the probe in late 2010 while holding office in an acting capacity after the discredited CEO Rosemary Mkok was suspended over graft allegation.
“On 4th December 2003, a notice was issued for the election of Noco directors in District 1, 4 and 5. The date of the elections was 10th January 2011 and Christopher Wekesa Sifuna, Joash Wamang’oli and Phillip Lubakaya were elected. That marked the beginning of Noco’s tribulations,” the report reads.
By the time the report was handed back to KSB, Mkok was back in office and decided to sit on the report! It is not known whether she was benefiting from the corruption of the Wamang’oli gang, but the fact that she did nothing after the audit report, numerous queries from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission or the police, raises questions over her role in the whole saga.
Wamang’oli together with other Noco directors is accused in the report of plundering resources and turning Noco into a personal cash cow. Among the eye-popping claims in the report are the uncontrolled advances to directors amounting to Sh1.9 million by February 28 2011 with Wamang’oli leading the pack at Sh916,000.
Irregular payment of per diems to directors was also rampant with Wamang’oli gobbling a total of Sh3.2 million as board chairman between August 2010 and February 2011. The list of irregular per diems and unexplained payments is availed in the report as seen in the pictures complete with cheque numbers. The report concludes that in total, Noco lost Sh6.3 million by February 2011 of which Sh5.1 million was stolen by Wamang’oli.
The largest cheque Wamang’oli pocketed was worth Sh300,000 withdrawn on January 19 2011. Under the unexplained payments, the former chairman also had two cheques each worth a whopping Sh200,000 to deal with a personal court case and something simply indicated as PR.
“The board expresses concern that the renegade directors and their allies are in a hurry to plunder assets both in the bank and the sale of machinery parts at the company’s yard in Sikata in contravention of the law, aware that the winding up process began after the 13th AGM in June 2011. The group has changed bank records and they have withdrawn more than Sh3 million by the date of this letter for unknown purposes, the matter was reported to the CID Bungoma to take action without success
In addition, Wamang’oli and other renegade directors were busy using their ill-gotten wealth inciting farmers against the KSB seconded general manager Kingsley Mutali who was sent to Noco by acting KSB boss Solomon Odera to clean up the mess.  Some of the misrules he presided over as chairman of Noco include asset misappropriation, trade in of old tractors without consultations with KSB, embezzlement of funds, misuse of transport income and increasing board meetings to raise sitting allowances. .
The major audit report exposing the directors of Noco was completed in April 2011 and handed to Mutali who was at the KSB before being deployed there in March 2010. It was authored by E Malinda, KSB’s head of internal audit and Augustine Maina, the internal auditor. Its draft was prepared by Mutali, Maina and KSB legal officer Eric Ng’eno, who is now Uhuru’s speech writer.
The wholesale plunder that Mutali uncovered created sufficient ground for Wamang’oli to be taken to court in 2011. However, he orchestrated a fake AGM that fronted Humphrey Mukania to replace Mutali in October 2011. Wamang’oli’s appointment came barely two weeks after Weekly Citizen reported more trouble in the offing for him following his ouster as Noco chairman after the board of directors recommended his prosecution over the loss of Sh600,000. Also recommended for prosecution was the sacked finance manager Samuel Ndombi who organised the irregular payment to Wamang’oli from the farmers capital levy account. After the scandal, the former Webuye MP was voted out as the chairman and replaced by the long serving district one director Chris Sifuna.
What observers are now asking is whether Uhuru’s appointment was meant to protect Wamang’oli from the law.
Next week, Kenya’s favourite political newspaper the Weekly Citizen will give you a blow by blow account of how the Wamang’oli gang resorted to crime, threats and open intimidation to silence Mutali and other managers who were determined to save Noco from collapse. We will also show you how numerous complaints to Bungoma Police Station and the Western province PPO (now Nairobi county commander Benson Kibue) about the collusion of the OCPD went unanswered with managers quitting Noco for fear of their lives.